FAO Home>Fisheries & Aquaculture
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nationsfor a world without hunger

Discards in world marine fisheries

In a fishing area, a range of species and sizes normally occur together, both fish and non-fish. The catch in many fisheries thus consists of a mixture of targets and non-targets. Non-targets are often synonymous with bycatch, which generically refers to the capture of any species, size of species, or sex of species that is not the primary target(s) of a fishing activity.

Bycatch, as a choice of the fisher, may be retained or discarded, alive or dead. The discarding of bycatch has long been recognized as wasteful because it constitutes a loss of valuable food, has negative consequences for the environment and biodiversity and can be aesthetically offensive. Bycatch was propelled to the forefront of public debate in reaction to the incidental capture of dolphins in tuna purse seine nets, turtles in shrimp trawls and marine mammals, birds, turtles and fish in high seas squid driftnets.
Starting in 2002 FAO has been implementing a five-year global project called “Reduction of environmental impacts from tropical shrimp trawling, through the introduction of bycatch reduction technologies and change of management”. This project, funded by the Global Environment Facility, concentrates on four main tropical regions (Asia, West Africa, the Gulf Region and Latin America and the Caribbean).

Marine litter and ghost fishing

Ghost fishing is the term used for lost or abandoned fishing gear that continues to catch fish. It is environmentally deleterious and the fish caught is wasted. Ghost fishing normally occurs with passive fishing gear such as longlines, gill nets, entangling nets, trammel nets, traps and pots, etc. as opposed to active fishing gear such as trawls and seines. The catching process of active fishing gear generally ceases when the gear is no longer attached to the vessel. However, whereas trawls, seines and purse seines might not contribute much to ghost fishing, lost active gears are considered environmentally undesirable. In addition, they are a danger to fishing vessels, for example, by jamming propellers of any craft retrieving lost gear or, lost gear floating on the surface can be a hazard to other vessels passing through the area.

Beginning in April 1985 when the issue of "ghost fishing" was first brought to the attention of world at the 16th Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries, the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department has been conducting studies and reviews on the environmental impacts of marine debris and lost fishing gear.

Economic performance and fishing efficiency of marine capture fisheries

Revenues and costs mainly determine the economics of fishing operations. Revenues depend on species and quantities caught and prices obtained, which again depend on marketing channels and markets, seasonal fluctuations and other factors. The main cost factors are capital investment and operation costs, which can be divided into labour costs, running costs and vessel costs.

The FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department has been collecting empirical information on the economics of fishing operations since 1995, in close cooperation with fisheries research institutions and national fisheries administrations in selected countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.  With a view to safeguarding the important role that marine capture fisheries play with regard to employment, income, food security and achieving the Millennium Development Goals, up-to-date information on the sector is needed to monitor the effect of management measures, regulations and government policies on its economic and financial health.
Powered by FIGIS