ICES advice for a reduction in the total allowable catch for North Sea cod in 2024 is hard to explain says Norges Fiskarlag chief Kåre Heggebo
“The advice is hard to understand and even harder to explain,” says Kåre Heggebø, the leader of the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association, after receiving a recommendation for a reduction in cod catches in the North Sea.
“This is an inexplicable recommendation and not in line with what our members report,” says Heggebø. The organization’s resource researcher, Gjert Dingsør from Fiskebåt, also expresses bewilderment.
In accordance with precautionary assessments, ICES recommends that catches in 2024 should not exceed 22,691 tonnes, with 13,529 tonnes from the Northwestern substock, 5,240 tonnes from the Viking substock, and 3,922 tonnes from the Southern substock. These substock recommendations should not be interpreted as area-specific advice. Overall, this recommendation is 13% lower than the 2023 advice and 17% lower than the total agreed quotas in the North Sea and west of Scotland in 2023.
Cod in the North Sea and west of Scotland underwent a method revision this winter, combining the North Sea and west of Scotland stocks and dividing them into three substocks based on biological and genetic data. These substocks are assumed to be geographically separated in the first quarter but mixed to varying degrees for the rest of the year. Data from all substocks are used in a newly developed stock model that estimates how the three substocks evolve relative to each other.
“The industry has long pointed to a better condition in the north than in the south, which the model confirms. The new model has been presented and discussed in meetings between research and the industry and has generally been well-received, seen as a step in the right direction. Criticism has centered on whether there is enough data for such a complex model,” says Dingsør.
Expecting AdjustmentsKåre Heggebø says that the industry’s observations do not align well with the current advice.
“Fishermen are intimately familiar with these waters. Our members are not interested in harvesting more than what is sustainable. HOWEVER,” emphasizes Heggebø, “when fishermen’s observations deviate so significantly from this advice, we must speak up.”
“I am now questioning whether we have reached a point where researchers are dictating management,” he says.
Kåre Heggebø expects a close and ongoing discussion between Norway, the UK, and the EU as they work toward determining the final cod quota in the North Sea.