North Sea Ground Fish

The ICES has made it recommendation for North Sea ground fish quotas for 2021 with cod again cut 16.5% 

The International Council for Marine Research (ICES) has announced the quotas for ground fish in the North Sea today, Tuesday, 30 June.

The only stock that has been recommended for a significant increase is haddock, with decreases in quotas being advocated for the other stocks in 2021.

Below is a summary of the recommendations for the most common stocks:

Hake in the (Northern Stock) Greater North Sea, Celtic Seas, and the northern Bay of Biscay: ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, catches in 2021 should be no more than 98 657 tonnes. ICES notes the existence of a precautionary management plan developed and adopted by one of the relevant management authorities for this stock. The advice for 2021 is about 5% lower than the advice for 2020 because the perception of the stock has been revised downwards.

Saithe in the North Sea, at Rockall, v, of Scotland, in the Skagerrak and Kattegat: ICES recommends that when the MSY approach is used, the catch in 2021 should not exceed 65,687 tonnes, this is down 25% on to the agreed quota of 88,093 tonnes in 2020. 

The drop in recommended quota is due to a decline in spawning stock and poor reproduction. The stock is in good condition and harvested sustainably, but is in a declining trend. In recent years, ICES has tended to overestimate the stock, leading to constant write-downs. I think this is due to the use of the CPUE (catch per unit trawl hour) series from the trawler fleet. For several stocks it has been found that such data series do not give a representative picture of the evolution of the stock.

Cod in the North Sea, the Eastern English Channel and Skagerrak: ICES recommends that when the MSY approach is used, the catch in 2021 should not exceed 14,755 tonnes. This is down 16.5% compared to the agreed quota of 17,670 tonnes in 2020. The stock has again been written down slightly, but slightly better reproduction is contributing to the stock which is expected to reach the critical limit Blim in 2021.

The stock is classified as being at a critical level and the fishing pressure is too high. A method review is planned for the stock in 2021, where they will also look at stock structure. It is known that the population consists of several components, where the northern components appear to outperform the southern ones. This should be taken into account in managing the stock.

Haddock in the North Sea, west of Scotland, Skagerrak: ICES recommends that when the MSY approach is used, the catch in 2021 should not exceed 69 280 tonnes, up 65% of the agreed quota in 2020. The upturn is due to a strong 2019 year class. The ICES estimates that 20,000 tonnes are thrown out or landed as below minimum target (BMS).

The stock is classified as being in good condition and harvested sustainably when draft and BMS landings are disregarded..

Plaice in the North Sea and Skagerrak: ICES recommends that when the MSY approach is used, the catch in 2021 should not exceed 162,607 tonnes, down 2.3% compared to the agreed quota of 166,499 in 2020. The stock is in good condition and harvested sustainably. The ICES estimates the draft to be high (46%).

Whiting in the North Sea and the Eastern English Channel: ICES recommends that when the MSY approach is used, the catch in 2021 should not exceed 26,304 tonnes, up 15% on the recommended quota for 2020 but down in the agreed quota of 28,021 tonnes in 2020. The stock is just above the MSY Btrigger action limit (166 708 tonnes) and is harvested sustainably.

Lemon sole in the North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat, eastern English Channel: ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches in 2021 should be no more than 3,742 tonnes. 

Management of lemon sole and witch under a combined species TAC prevents effective control of the single-species exploitation rates and could lead to the overexploitation of either species. ICES advises that management should be implemented at the species level in the entire stock distribution area (Subarea 4 and divisions 3.a and 7.d).

Megrim in the northern North Sea, West of Scotland: ICES advises that when the EU multiannual plan (MAP) for Western Waters and adjacent waters is applied, catches in 2021 that correspond to the F ranges in the plan are between 5,700 tonnes and 7,300 tonnes.

Sole in the eastern English Channel: ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches in 2021 should be no more than 3,248 tonnes.

Stock development over time the assessment is indicative of trends only. The spawning–stock biomass (SSB) has been fluctuating without a trend and has been above MSY Btrigger since 2010. Fishing pressure (F) has shown a decreasing trend since 2009, and has been below FMSY since 2016. Recruitment has been fluctuating without a trend. In 2019, the recruitment was estimated to be the highest of the time-series.

Technical measures applicable to the mixed demersal beam-trawl fishery affect both sole and plaice. The minimum mesh size of 80 mm for the sole fishery generates high discards of plaice, which have a larger minimum landing size than sole. The use of larger mesh sizes would reduce the catch of undersized plaice and sole, but would also result in a loss of marketable sole in the short term.

Brill in the North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat, English Channel: ICES advice on fishing opportunities  – Please note: The present advice replaces the advice given in June 2019 for catches in 2021 ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches in 2021 should be no more than 2,047 tonnes. 

Management of brill and turbot under a combined species TAC prevents effective control of the single-species exploitation rates and could lead to the overexploitation of either species. ICES advises that management should be implemented at the species level in the entire stock distribution area (Subarea 4 and divisions 3.a and 7.d–e).

Source: Marine Research Norway & Resource Researcher: Gjert Dingsør

ICES announces 2021 Recommendations for North Sea Ground Fish

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