For 2022, the Norwegian final quota for sandeel has been set at 95,000 tonnes by the Quota Council.
Preliminary advice given in February was 60,000 tonnes, the fishing boats currently on sandeel have 35,000 tonnes to catch.
“During this year’s cruise, we have seen medium to weak recruitment of the 2021 year class, ie the one-year-olds. The amount of sandeel is as expected for the older year classes,” says researcher Espen Johnsen, who is responsible for the stock of sandeel at HI and has just returned from this year’s sandeel cruise.
Using echo sounders and trawls, the researchers have checked the condition of the sandeel stock in the North Sea. The cruise forms the basis for HI’s final quota advice for how much sandeel it is sustainable to fish in the Norwegian economic zone.
HI recommends that the management areas 1-3 remain open for sandeel fishing in the period from 15 April to 23 June.
Very little sandeel on UK Grounds
During this year’s cruise, Johnsen and his research colleagues were surprised at how little sandeel they saw in management area 4, ie the northernmost of the southern sandeel areas.
“There is very low biomass this year. It is a bit startling that we find so little sandeel – especially on UK grounds since this field has been important for sandeel fishing in recent years. But it is as expected that there is little sandeel north of English Klondyke,” says Johnsen.
The stock in management area 4 and on Vikingbanken (management area 5) is assessed to be critically low.
The growing conditions for sandeel appear to be good in all the southernmost sandeel areas, including English Klondyke.
“We see that the individuals have grown well and have a lot of zooplankton in their stomachs,” says the marine scientist.
Lots of haddock and whiting on the sandeel fields
Sandeel live partly buried in sandy bottoms, and the population is therefore distributed on sandbanks in the North Sea. During the sandeel cruise, the researchers have seen a lot of haddock and whiting in all the sandeel fields.
“There was a lot last year as well but compared to five years ago there is a lot more,” says Johnsen.
Researchers have also found a lot of sandeel in the stomachs of these two species, but their numbers do not indicate that they are eradicating the sandeel population.
“It is positive for these species, which have been down for a long time,” says the marine scientist.
The technical cruise report will arrive when it is completed during the next week.