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Project 50%

Previous approaches to reducing the damaging fishing practice called "discarding" (throwing fish with no market value back into the water) often achieved little or no success. Project 50% used an innovative approach to dealing with this high-profile, long-standing issue by putting collaboration at the heart of its plans.

Funded by Defra and co-ordinated by Cefas, Project 50%, used social scientists' skills to understand the reasons behind resistance to adopting new gear modifications.

Social marketing experts carried out interviews with fishermen in southwest England to clarify the issues, communicate the potential for change, and help guide a new approach to developing discard-reduction techniques.

Devon beam-trawler crews agreed to try to reduce their discards by an ambitious 50%. Working with local net-makers, the fishermen trialled their own new net designs alongside standard trawling configurations. The research was supported by Cefas gear technologists and fishery liaison officers.

The side-by-side trials were a resounding success, with average discards reductions of 52%, and the most successful boat achieving a 69% reduction.  

Interviews with the fishermen established that a new approach to communicating results was needed. Listening to those views, we designed four-page reports that conveyed relevant information in a simple, easy-to-use format that:

  • recognised the contribution of the fishermen
  • showed schematic views of the fishing gear (standard and adapted) and graphs of the catches achieved
  • included calculations of the overall discard-reduction rates
  • gave a breakdown of the complete catch, showing the commercial implications of the gear changes.

Fewer discards, fuel savings and more marketable fish that commanded a higher price in port all convinced the fishermen that changing practices and working with scientists could deliver better outcomes. As some fishermen said:

"It was the first time that I've known a government organisation to work with the local fisherman and ask us how we could help. It opened up a different kind of discussion because we felt that our opinions were being valued."

"We've had massive savings in terms of the work we do, it's not hard to sort the catch and there's less maintenance of the nets needed. The [results from] the new net was clear for us all to see."

Social marketing techniques underpinned the strong collaborative approach between fishermen and scientists, helping the project to achieve the three pillars of sustainability: social, economic and environmental outcomes.The project has since been seen as an example of "best practice" and is being adopted in other UK fleets.

Related documents

Sea-trial reports

Newsletters

The local fishing communities were invited to support those who agreed to undertake sustainable fishing practices. Bright and attractive newsletters were distributed in cafes, pubs and shops so that local people could identify with the aims of the project, the people behind it and how they themselves might benefit.

© Crown Copyright 2014
Last Modified: 06 September 2011