The Norwegian Quota Council has set a preliminary sandeel advice of 60,000 tonnes for 2022. Photo:Norges Sildesalgslag
The Norwegian Quota Council has set a preliminary sandeel advice of 60,000 tonnes for 2022 with the final quota council coming in May.
In May 2021, the final Quota Council for sandeel, or sea herring as it is actually called in Norwegian, ended at 145,000 tonnes and in 2020, the final quota council reached a record 250,000 tonnes.
For 2022, HI researchers recommend a preliminary quota of 60,000 tonnes. This is a 59% decrease from the final quota council.
“In the Norwegian zone, there have been very large quotas in recent years. The starting quota, as we also call it, will be a little higher than “usual”. It was completely expected that it would go down from its highest point,” says Espen Johnsen, sandeel manager at HI.
In the Norwegian zone, we have large quantities of older sandeel, and a lot of 5-year-old sandeel was fished in 2021. Sandeel is often considered a short-lived fish species, which depends on replenishment from new year classes for good fishing. But with careful fishing pressure, the researchers see that it can be fished in strong year classes for many years. In recent years, there have been many strong year classes in the North Sea, including 2016, 2018 and 2020.
“And then we have the 2019 year class, which I would call super strong. We see many older individuals, and that means that the fishing pressure has been reasonable,” says Johnsen.
In the mid-2000s, the sandeel stock in the North Sea was worse off, but the distinctive Norwegian administration has helped to lift the stock.
“Then there was poor recruitment. In recent years, things have also been bad in the Doggerbank area,” says the marine researcher.
To get an early signal of how the recruitment has been, the researchers use the results from an annual cruise in December. There they use bottom scraper to look for fry in the sand.
But that method gives more indications than clear answers. The scraping method has some uncertainty, and in addition, spring is a critical time for the fry. Survival varies greatly from year to year depending on how access to food is in the ocean.
Therefore, the preliminary quota council should always be a cautious council. In May, the researchers will update the advice after checking the situation for the sandeel with a new, acoustic cruise. Then the quota council can increase, but never be lower.
“We expect that there will be a lot of older fish, which is positive for the recruitment that will take place in 2022. And we expect that there will be a lot of spawning distributed over large areas,” says Johnsen.
One of the characteristics of the particularly Norwegian and successful management of sandeel is that the sandeel fields have been divided into several areas, since sandeel is very stationary and stays largely within its sandbank.
An area will be kept closed if the spawning stock is too low, but if the stock is large, it will be possible to fish in the area. For each open area, at least 30 percent of the area will still be closed to fishing. This is done to avoid an excessive local withdrawal of the local population.
This year, the entire area 5, which is the northernmost area at Vikingbanken, will be closed since the population is critically low. All the more southern areas (1-4) are open for fishing.