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  • In 2013, EU Member States agreed to introduce the fisheries landing obligation. This was intended to reduce and ultimately eliminate the discard of fish and other marine animals by the sea fishing industry. Discards happen either because the animals caught are not wanted or because fishers have reached their quota for a particular species. The practice has been criticised by marine conservationists as having a damaging impact on marine ecology.
  • The fisheries landing obligation requires fishers to return to land with their catch and not discard unwanted fish into the sea. It was introduced gradually from 2015 and came fully into force in January 2019. Some fish are exempt, including those with high survival rates.
  • During the 2017–19 session, the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee held an inquiry in to the implementation of the landing obligation. Its report, published in February 2019, concluded that the landing obligation showed little sign of having its intended effect. It found neither the UK Government nor the devolved administrations had put in place mechanisms to monitor compliance with the obligation. It also identified the issue referred to as “choke”: where the exhaustion of the quota of one type of fish prevents fishers catching their quota of other types of fish.
  • The then Government responded to the sub-committee’s report in April 2019, stating it would call on the EU to review the operation of the landing obligation. It also said the UK would continue to combat the discard of fish once the UK had left the EU.
  • The sub-committee decided to hold a follow-up inquiry to consider the impact of the landing obligation six months on. It concluded in its second report the landing obligation was having little effect and there were still not systems in place to effectively monitor compliance. The then Government responded that, while some progress had been made, more needed to be done to: enforce the landing obligation; collect data on discards; and combat chokes in mixed fisheries.
  • The landing obligation was raised during a debate on Common Fisheries Policy (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 in the Lords. However, this will be the first opportunity to debate both of the two sub-committee reports on the landing obligation.

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