Fishery discards and bycatch: solutions for an ecosystem approach to fisheries management?
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It has been widely acknowledged that fishery discard practices constitute a purposeless waste of valuable living resources, which plays an important role in the depletion of marine populations. Furthermore, discarding may have a number of adverse ecological impacts in marine ecosystems, provoking changes in the overall structure of trophic webs and habitats, which in turn could pose risks for the sustainability of current fisheries. The present review aims to describe the current state-of-the-art in discards research, with particular emphasis on the needs and challenges associated with the implementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) in European waters. We briefly review the international and European policy contexts of discarding, how discard data are collected and incorporated into stock assessments, selectivity in fishing and the main consequences of discarding for ecosystem dynamics. We then review implementation issues related to reducing discards under the EAFM and the associated scientific challenges, and conclude with some comments on lessons learned and future directions.