The Marine Institute and BIM produced the "Discard Atlas" – which is a detailed compendium of discards by the Irish Fleet on a stock by stock and area by area basis. The Atlas also outlines a range of potential measures to help reduce discarding. The "Discard Atlas - scientific observations and potential solutions" was compiled with the support of Irish Industry, to inform the EU wide discard debate, to identify where action needs to be taken and to inform on the appropriate measures.
Commenting on the Atlas Minister Coveney said "Ireland has now taken the lead in the debate on discards and this Atlas will inform the process to achieve real change and a significant reduction in discarding within the new Common Fisheries Policy". Minister Coveney emphasised that "discarding is an EU wide issue, not just an Irish issue. While the Atlas highlights discarding in the Irish fleet, all Member States fishing these stocks, do so at the same time, using similar gears and under the same market conditions. While there may be some differences, overall the discard trends will be similar for all".
In calling for all Member States to publish their figures, the Minister said "I have consistently said that discarding is a complex issue and the debate must be informed by all the scientific facts, so we can better understand the issues and identify potential solutions". The information provided in the Atlas is based on information that is collected by all Member States. However, the international data has not been compiled into an Atlas format. Minister Coveney said " It is only when the full extent of the available international data are compiled can we collectively make informed decisions on a coherent EU wide discard policy, underpinned by a focussed suite of measures to significantly reduce and ultimately eliminate discards. The information contained in the Atlas re-enforces my long held view that we need to tackle the discard problem on a stock by stock and fishery by fishery basis, and not by a blunt simplistic blanket ban which will be difficult to enforce".
The Atlas states that in a review of world discarding, the UN noted that the northeast Atlantic has the second highest discard level in the world, estimated to be 1.3 million tonnes, the majority being attributed to EU fisheries. The extent of discarding varies and where international data are available, the picture is mixed. In the Celtic Sea, international discarding of haddock was 12,400 tonnes (56% by weight) in 2010. In the Irish Sea; an average discard rate of 30% for haddock associated with Irish vessels is in line with other countries. However, there are cases where Ireland makes a very minor contribution to overall international discarding; for example in 2010, 1,183t of Cod was discarded in the North West fishery (area Via), yet Ireland contributed to less than 1% of this.
Minister Coveney said that "I want to commend the Irish industry in their decision to support this project, and acknowledge that they have already been pro-active in bringing forward proposals to reduce discarding of, Cod, Haddock and Whiting in the Celtic Sea. I intend to build on this good work by asking the Irish Fisheries Science Research Partnership (IFSRP) to look at the matter in light of the new Atlas information and explore the possibility of coming forward with further ambitious discard mitigation measure. It is only by this type of cross industry co-operation that a comprehensive set of proposals for dealing with the EU wide discarding problem can be designed and implemented, and I call on other Member States to follow the Irish lead and publish the full details of their discards so that our common goal for the elimination of discards can be realised."