The trawl catch comes in for sorting the sandeels during this year’s acoustic cruise with “Eros”. Photographer: Åse Husebø / Norwegian Institute of Research

The Norwegian Institute of Research has revised its recommendations on the sandeel quota for 2020 by increasing the total allowable catch from 70,000 tonnes to 250,000 tonnes.

The Institute of Research says that this increase, which is double last year’s quota, is allowable due to certain important factors that influenced their decision. Earlier they had recommended a provisionally increase of the sandeel quota from 70,000 tonnes to 110,000 tonnes for 2020.

The Final Quota Council meets tomorrow, Friday, 15 May and will make the final decision on setting the quota for 2020 catches.

After surveying sandeel stocks along the Norwegian coast the Institute found a high number of mature fish in the stocks. The second important driver in their decision was the quantity of mature sandeels that was found in each sample.

Another factor that influenced the Institutes decision was that all the sandeels sampled were found to have a good grade of oil in them which is important for fish oil processing.

Some of the finds that allow researchers to go to the massive quota increase:

  • The sandeels were divided among the southern fishing banks.
  • Three of the last four year classes were above average for the first time in the cruise series.
  • The recruitment (2019 class) is historically strong.
  • The very strong 2016 year class is still numerous.
  • Mycogenic zooplankton in the sea and in the spawn of the sandeel have produced good individual growth.

The report recommends that sub-areas 1a, 1c, 2b, 2c, 3b, 3c, 4a (see maps) be opened in the period April 15 – June 23 but has warned against opening the Viking Bank (Area 5) as the stocks are not deemed to be recovering as quickly as elsewhere.

norwegian sandeel fishing

The fishing areas approved for sandeel fishing in 2020. Note Area 5, the Viking Bank is not recommended.

“It can be a burden for low spawning stock, adverse conditions for larvae, excessive human activity or other factors,” says Marine Scientist, Espen Johnsen who led the survey onboard the trawler ‘Eros’.

Sandeels live partly buried in sandy bottom, and therefore the population divides into sandbanks in a restricted area in the North Sea. In 2011, Norway introduced its own Norwegian quota per area, with fishing in larger parts of the quarter area. This is to rebuild the stocks population and ensure sustainable fishing.

“So far everything seems to indicate that the management model works. We have seen a steady improvement in almost the entire Norwegian economic zone. I hope and think we have broken a code,” says Johnsen.

In compiling his assessment Johnsen concluded:

“The key is good acoustic cruises, good fishing data from the fishing fleet and area-based management that impede large local fishing pressure.”

Norwegian Institute of Research revises Sandeel Quota to 250,000 tonnes

by editor time to read: 6 min