Invisible catch: A century of bycatch and unreported removals in sea fisheries, Belgium 1929-2010
Lescrauwaet, A.-K.; Torreele, E.; Vincx, M.; Polet, H.; Mees, J. (2013). Invisible catch: A century of bycatch and unreported removals in sea fisheries, Belgium 1929-2010, in: Lescrauwaet, A.-K. Belgian fisheries: ten decades, seven seas, forty species: Historical time-series to reconstruct landings, catches, fleet and fishing areas from 1900. pp. 136-163
In: Lescrauwaet, A.-K. (2013). Belgian fisheries: ten decades, seven seas, forty species: Historical time-series to reconstruct landings, catches, fleet and fishing areas from 1900. PhD Thesis. Ghent University (UGent): Gent. xiii, 242 pp.
Publicly reported statistics on the production of fisheries available refer to 'landings' as opposed to 'catch'. However, well-informed decisions and evaluation of the impacts of fisheries on ecosystems must be based on total removals, so including the part of the catch that is discarded at sea or not reported as landings. Total removals by Belgian fisheries from all ICES fishing areas and from the Belgian part of the North Sea (BNS) from 1929-2010 were reconstructed by including unreported and misreported landings of the commercial fleet, unreported landings by the recreational and artisanal/subsistence fisheries and by estimating discards for the most important fisheries. Total reconstructed removals were estimated at 5.2 million t or 42% higher than the 3.7 million tonnes (t) publicly reported over this period. Unreported landings and discards were estimated to represent respectively 3.5% (0.2 million t) and 26% (1.3 million t) of these total reconstructed removals. The reconstructed total removals on the BNS were estimated to be 55% higher than the 0.8million t publicly reported over this period. In terms of percentages, discards on the BNS represent an average annual of 34% over the entire period. The results suggest that since the 2000s, approximately 50% of all Belgian removals from the BNS are unreported landings and discards (IUU). The unreported landings and discards are increasingly taken by non-commercial, small-scale (<12m) vessels that are not subject to reporting and not taken into consideration in planning, monitoring and enforcement. While the present paper provides a first attempt to reconstruct historical total removals for Belgium’s sea fisheries, it also addresses the gaps in data and information that need to be resolved to improve the reliability of the estimates of unaccounted removals. The reconstructed time series provides a context for the wider debate about how to move to more sustainable fisheries, what the role of small-scale fisheries are, how to achieve the agreed policy targets in Belgian marine waters and in particular in the marine areas protected under the EU Habitat and Bird directives.