The use of natural resources unavoidably comes with environmental impact, which is usually perceived to be negative. Technical measures to reduce this impact are often the least painful solutions to mitigate the conflict between use and conservation, as they usually don’t require much change in fisher behaviour. For example, the introduction of a discard ban might be more easily accepted if there are improvements in selectivity to avoid catching unwanted fish. These solutions require good ideas and a clear definition of the aims, but also thorough testing, and should be supported by the creation of right incentives. Gear changes can even have adverse effects if the aims are not clearly defined. A good example is the recent increase of mesh size in one Baltic fishery unintentionally leading to higher discards. This could have been avoided if testing would have involved proper population modelling. There are other examples where technical solutions are developed and sometimes implemented without a systematic approach to the problem – for example avoiding seabird or harbour porpoise bycatch requires insights into their behaviour. An increasing number of developments now use such an approach, such as the Dutch project to evaluate the effect of the use of pulse trawls (ultimately aiming at reducing the impact further).
Other technical measures, such as spatial or temporal ones, require the same careful consideration of the objective and how to achieve it. A key issue would be the likely displacement of fishing effort by a closure that could actually lead to ecosystem impacts elsewhere, possibly greater than the benefits of the closure itself.
Wider management measures can also have unexpected impacts, for example the Landing Obligation, which could be considered in the same context.
This session intends to bring together ecosystem specialists, modellers, engineers, traditional gear technologists, and physiologists to foster a systematic and multi-disciplinary attitude to the reduction of environmental impact. Social scientists will be particularly important to evaluate how novel techniques can be smoothly implemented in the fishery. Such a platform is an important prerequisite for progress in the attempt to make fisheries more environmentally friendly.