The ICES advises reducing quotas for Arctic cod and haddock in the Barents Sea by 20 and 23 per cent respectively for 2021

The ICES advises reducing quotas for Arctic cod and haddock in the Barents Sea by 20 and 23 per cent respectively for 2021

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advises reducing quotas for cod and haddock in the Barents Sea by 20 and 23 per cent respectively. Saithe remains stable in relation to the agreed quota for 2021.

“The decline in the cod and haddock stock is greater than expected, but the stability clause limits the reduction to 20 per cent for Norwegian Arctic cod. This is worrying since cod quotas have the greatest impact on earnings for the fishing fleet in the whitefish sector. Earnings in cod fishing are the cornerstone of the renewal of the Norwegian whitefish fleet,” says Audun Maråk, CEO in Fiskebat. 

Maråk otherwise points out that it is positive that all stocks, cod, haddock and saithe are in good condition and harvested sustainable.

Northeast Arctic cod

The advice is given in accordance with the management plan and ICES recommends a quota of up to 708,480 tonnes, limited by the stability clause of a maximum of minus 20 per cent change in relation to the agreed quota. The decline is due to a downward adjustment of the stock in connection with the method revision this winter. In addition, the cruise indices from the last year show a lower estimate than expected. 

The stock is in a declining trend due to lower recruitment and increasing fishing pressure. Without the stability clause, but in accordance with the three-year rule in the management rule, the council would have been down 40 per cent. The stock is in good condition and harvested sustainably.

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Northeast Arctic haddock

The advice is given in accordance with the management plan and ICES recommends a quota of up to 180,003 tonnes, down 23 percent from the agreed quota. The decline is due to a downward adjustment of the stock due to lower crude indices than expected. The stock is in good condition and is harvested sustainably, but in 2020 the fishing pressure was slightly higher than the target in the management plan.

Northeast Arctic saithe

The advice is given in accordance with the management plan and ICES recommends a quota of up to 197,212 tonnes, down 567 tonnes from the agreed quota for 2021. The stock is in good condition and harvested sustainably. The spawning stock is estimated to be at a peak and is expected to fall slightly in the coming years.

Northeast Arctic blue halibut

According to the precautionary approach, ICES recommends a total catch of up to 19,094 tonnes for 2022 and 18,494 tonnes for 2023. 2022 the council is down 29 percent compared to the agreed quota for 2021. ICES has estimated a new precautionary reference point for fishing press: HR = 0.035, which can be translated to a harvest rate of 3.5 percent of the biomass of blue halibut larger than 45 cm. Previous advice was given after a harvest rate of 2.5 percent. The harvest rate for 2021 is estimated to be 5.2 per cent if the agreed quota is taken. The stock is in good condition, but in a declining trend. Agreed quotas have been set higher than expected since fishing was reopened in 2010 and catches have again been higher than agreed quotas. ICES estimates fishing pressure to be higher than sustainable levels.

Coastal cod north of 67o N

In accordance with the precautionary approach, ICES recommends a total catch of zero tonnes for 2022. ICES recommends that a recovery plan be developed for the stock. Coastal cod north of 62o N was divided in two at 67o N after the method revision this winter, this component is considered data-rich and comes under other rules than data-poor stocks. ICES estimates the stock to be below the limit value B glue  which is set at 115 782 tonnes. The projections show that the stock will not exceed B glue  by 2023 and ICES therefore sets the quota council at zero. 

My assessment is that B glue  is set too high for this stock and raises questions about the scientific basis for this stock being or having been overfished. I believe that the stock assessment shows a stock in good condition, which is harvested carefully. It also appears that the environment and competition with new cod are other important factors that affect stock size in addition to fishing pressure. A major source of error is the misclassification between new cod and coastal cod, both in relation to cruise index and catch statistics. The large difference in stock sizes means that relatively small errors can have major consequences for the estimated biomass of the smallest stock, which is coastal cod. 

Coastal cod 62 – 67o N

In accordance with the precautionary approach, ICES recommends a total catch of up to 7613 tonnes for 2022. ICES assumes that 4 202 tonnes of the total will be fished by recreational fishermen, the commercial catch should therefore be limited to 3 411 tonnes. Since the coastal cruise is not considered to cover this stock well enough, it was decided at the method revision that ICES will assess the development of the stock based on a catch per unit effort (CPUE) index from the reference fleet. The quality of this index is low and any changes may be random, but for lack of something better it has been approved by ICES. ICES uses a trend-based methodology that compares the average of the index for the last two years with the average for the previous three years. This rate was positive, but since ICES considers the stock to be at a critically low level, they deduct from a precautionary buffer of 20 percent.

The advice can be read in full here .

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ICES advises a sharp reduction in Arctic cod and haddock quotas

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