The Norwegian Pelagic Association is critical of ICES advice which allows for an increase of 45% of the TAC in North Sea Herring for 2022

The Norwegian Pelagic Association is critical of ICES advice which allows for an increase of 45% of the TAC in North Sea Herring for 2022

The Norwegian Pelagic Association has voiced its opposition to the advice from the International Council of the Seas (ICES) which allows for an increase of 45% in the total allowable catch of North Sea Herring for 2022.

According to ICES advice, using the MSY approach, ICES recommends a total catch of up to 532,183 tonnes in 2022, of which direct fishing (A-fleet) amounts to 523,438 tonnes, which is up 45% from the agreed quota in 2021.

The ICES report says that the stock has been through a minimum method revision this spring / summer to adopt new estimates of natural mortality. ICES believes that changes made in connection with this have led to an improved stock model.

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The report continues: The results show a weaker negative trend in the spawning stock than what previous stock assessments have shown, which in turn leads to a slight upward adjustment of the spawning stock estimate for recent years. Given that the advice is followed, the spawning stock is predicted to be 1.28 million tonnes in 2022 and above the action point MSY B triggers  1,232,828 tonnes. All reference points have been revised in connection with the minimum method revision and the MSY B trigger  has been adjusted down from 1,400,000 tonnes. The reference point for the recommended fishing pressure Fmsy has been adjusted upwards from 0.26 to 0.31. These changes in the reference points constitute the most important reason for the increase in the quota council. The spawning stock is still in a negative trend due to weak recruitment, but the fishing pressure is at a moderate level (0.19), compared with Fmsy.

Quota Council for North Sea herring was supposed to come out in late May but was exposed to a minor method revision in the stock calculation.

“There are two reasons why the quota council goes up. Firstly, the minimum method revision this summer led to changes in the stock assessment model and reference points, and an increase in the estimate of fish mortality rate for maximum long-term yield, also called Fmsy. Secondly, the data from 2021 indicate that the decline in the stock has slowed down,” says Cecilie Kvamme, stock manager for North Sea herring at the Institute for Marine Research in Norway.

The Norwegian Pelagic Association claim advice for North Sea herring was both surprising and worrying, saying “We see that a small adjustment to the reference points makes a big difference in the stock calculation.”

“For a number of years, fishermen have stated that they are concerned about the catch of North Sea herring. The TAC has been set too high, and the stock is not such a constitution as the quota council dictates. This has been stated in many forums, both directly to HI and to FUR. The stock council is totally out of step with what the fishermen expect and experience at sea,” says Mariann Frantsen, general manager of the Pelagic Association.

Kristian Sandtorv, Chairman of the Board of the Pelagic Association was strongly critical of the increased quota recommendation.

Speaking to Fiskeribladet he said, “It’s been a long time since the Pelagic Association raised concerns about this population.”

The Chairman of the Board questions how a small adjustment to the reference points can have such a large impact on the population calculation.

He points out that the spawning population has also been reduced by seven percent.

“The actual biomass does not move up or down if they move the numbers, and Sandtorv believes that the fishermen are nervous about the population collapsing.

“No one makes more observations than we fishermen, and we often let them know when we feel that the quotas are too small. Now we let you know the opposite,” the chairman stressed.

Fiskebåt also reports that they are critical of the sharp increase in the quota council for North Sea herring. The organisation is also critical to such a data-rich population having such unstable quota advice.

“Ices needs to get better here. Norwegian fishermen have for several years expressed concern about the stock and called for caution in the quota determinations. Fishing boats still support such a request,” Gjert Dingsør, a resource researcher at Fiskebåt, said in a press release.

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