On the 1st of January 2014, the European Union introduced a phased discard ban or “Landing Obligation” for regulated species, as part of Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) Basic Regulation (Article 15). Today, in the post-Landing Obligation world, it may appear that a report on discard survival has little relevance. However, The Landing Obligation policy includes a high survival exemption (HSE) for “species for which scientific evidence demonstrates high survival rates, taking into account the characteristics of the gear, of the fishing practices and of the ecosystem” (Article 14, paragraph 4b). The HSE generated considerable interest from stakeholders, who wished to demonstrate that their particular fisheries did in fact have a suitably high survival rate for discarded unwanted catch.
Research aimed at determining whether aquatic organisms survive after being caught and subsequently released has been conducted over many decades. However, in 2014, there had been no comprehensive assessment of all the scientific methods and approaches that can be employed to estimate the survival of discarded fish and other aquatic animals. To that end, ICES established the Workshop on Methods for Estimating Discard Survival (WKMEDS), in January 2014, to provide guidance on best practice for methods to quantify the survival of discarded, unwanted catch.
WKMEDS published its first preliminary guidance on best practice for survival estimation methods in April 2014 (ICES, 2014) – just four months after the group was established. This preliminary guidance provided the framework for WKMEDS to develop and apply these methods, over the following years, to gather evidence in support of applications for HSEs. This Cooperative Research Report (CRR) is the culmination of that collective research, providing a state-of-the-art review of the current best practice for methods to estimate discard survival.