Bycatch and discard

Millions of tonnes of fish each year are wasted as unwanted catches and hundreds of thousands of seabirds, marine mammals, turtles and other marine species are killed through destructive fishing practices. This “incidental” catch is called bycatch.

When incidentally caught or when quotas allocated by EU regulations are exceeded, this bycatch is usually discarded, i.e. thrown back, dead or dying, in the sea. Every year as much as 20 million tonnes of marine life is wasted in this way.

Part of the problem can be solved with better fisheries management, more selective fishing methods and through policy reform. There is an urgent need to fish in the right place, with the right gear, at the right time.

Besides the advocacy work carried out at policy level, WWF joins forces with fishermen and researchers to develop and implement smarter fishing gears. Launched in 2004, WWF's International Smart Gear Competition is an annual prize inviting people from around the world to develop practical, innovative fishing gear designs that reduce bycatch.

WWF guide to reduce and eliminate fish discards

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Michel Gunther
A loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) swimming in the Mediterranean Sea.
© WWF-Canon / Michel Gunther

WWF wants to see an end to the wasteful practice of discarding and we ask for a new policy that will deliver a systematic reduction of current discard levels, prioritising most problematic fisheries.

There are solutions to the problem of discards , many of which have already achieved positive results in Norwegian fisheries . Here WWF outlines some of these solutions

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