High-grading is the decision by fishers to discard fish of low value that allows them to land more valuable fish. A literature review showed high-grading is reported in commercial and non-commercial fisheries around the world, although the number of observations is small. High-grading occurs in fisheries that are restricted to land their total catch due to management, market or physical constraints. Using the mixed flatfish fishery as a model system, a dynamic state variable model simulation showed that high-grading of certain grades occurs throughout the year when their ex-vessel price is low. High-grading increases with the degree of quota restriction, while the level of over-quota discarding is unrelated to the quota level. The size composition of the high-graded catch differs from the landed catch. Due to the differences in the seasonal variation in size specific ex-vessel price, the effect of quota restrictions on the size composition of the discarded catch is non-linear. High-grading is difficult to detect for the fishery inspection as it occurs on-board during the short period when the catch is processed. We conclude that high-grading is under-reported in fish stocks managed by restrictive quota, undermining the quality of stock assessments and sustainable management of exploited fish stocks.
- Common fisheries policy
- Fisheries management