Survival of undersized fish

Scientists and fishers are carrying out joint research into the chances of survival of undersized fish that are returned to sea (discarding). How many of the undersized fish survive the process of discarding? And how can the chances of survival be improved? The research yields knowledge that is used as input for European policies on discarding.

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Why carry out research into the survival rate of undersized fish?

A lot of discussion is going on about the landing obligation in the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. The landing obligation means that all fish that are caught should be brought to shore. Prior to this policy, fishers had to discard all undersized fish in the catch. The aim of the policy is to stimulate fishers to decrease this unwanted bycatch. This would have positive effects on the fish stock, fisheries management and the ecosystem. Fishers have a different view. After all, if fish that are too small cannot be returned to sea, they can never fully grow and reproduce. The Common Fisheries Policy therefore includes a provision that states that an exception may be made on the landing obligation for fish species with a high chance of survival. But how many of the undersized fish that are discarded survive the process? And how can the chances of survival be improved? These are the primary questions of the study Wageningen Marine Research is performing in collaboration with the fishing industry.

How is the survival research done?

We follow the guidelines of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) to determine the chances of survival.

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Infographic: survival of undersized fish

What are the chances of survival?

We determined the chances of survival of undersized plaice and sole in the pulse fishery (12m width, 80mm mesh) as well as indicative chances of survival for turbot, brill, thornback ray en spotted ray. We are still analysing the effects of the conditions under which fishing takes place on their survivability.


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