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2. Utilisation of bycatch as an option

As has been mentioned above the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries suggests that states should improve the use of bycatch as long as doing so is consistent with responsible fisheries management and this is considered as an option in many deliberations concerning policy on fisheries management and mitigation of the discards problem.

For instance, the paper produced by the Australian Government for the OECD on Policy Options for Fisheries Bycatch (Truelove 1997) states that "where bycatch has immediate or potential commercial value, is unavoidable in the course of fishing and does not include marine wildlife species subject of separate nature conservation legislation, or utilisation does not undermine broader management arrangements, it should be fully utilised."

The re-formulated Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (USA 1996) which governs the management of fisheries activities in the United States of America has the following clauses which include the option of unavoidable bycatch utilisation:

    "BYCATCH REDUCTION PROGRAM- Not later than 12 months after the enactment of the Sustainable fisheries Act, the Secretary shall, ........complete a program to--

    (1) develop technological devises and other changes in fishing operations necessary and appropriate to minimise the incidental mortality of bycatch in the course of shrimp trawl activity to the extent practical.....

    (2) evaluate the ecological impacts and the benefits and costs of such devices and changes in fishing operations; and

    (3) assess whether it is practical to utilise bycatch which is not avoidable."

In other contexts there may be very positive reasons for looking at bycatch use as an option. Where, for instance, fish is incidentally caught in waters adjacent to countries which are short of fish for feeding their people, as is often the case with tropical shrimp fisheries, the use of that fish to assist in alleviating hunger may be a high priority.

It is widely assumed that measures to eliminate the capture of fish which will subsequently be discarded will never be perfect and that some considerable quantity of fish will always be discarded and with more appropriate marketing that fish could be used for human consumption. It is this portion of the presently wasted fish catch with which this paper is concerned. Although it is recognised that the incidental capture of marine mammals, reptiles and seabirds, for instance, may have important implications for their respective populations and also in the public conception of fishing as a "clean" and environmentally responsible activity, these aspects of the problem will not be covered in any depth here, the primary purpose being to assist in the identification of presently wasted resources which could be used for food and increase food security.

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