NWWAC and PelAC issue a joint recommendation to the European Commission for sprat in the English Channel (areas 7d and 7e) for 2023

NWWAC and PelAC issue a joint recommendation to the European Commission for sprat in the English Channel for 2023

The North Western Advisory Council (NWWAC) and the Pelagic Advisory Council (PelAC) have issued a joint recommendation to the European Commission with advice for the sprat fishery in the English Channel (areas 7d and 7e).

ICES published advice on sprat in areas 7d and 7e (English Channel) on 20 April 2023, advising catches of no more than 2,437 tonnes from 1 July 2023 to 30 June 2024 following the MSY-approach. The advice follows the ICES framework for category 3 (data-limited) stocks where a biomass index from the PELTIC survey was used as an indicator of stock development.

Following the established Gentlemen’s Agreement between the NWW and Pelagic ACs agreed on March 31 2022, both ACs acknowledge that any recommendation on sprat in areas 7d and 7e fall under the direct competence of the NWWAC, in accordance with Annex III of the CFP.

The NWWAC proposes the following recommendation for this stock, which is endorsed by the Pelagic AC and is the result of a joint-exercise, whereby the NWWAC advises on bycatch issues and the PelAC advises on the directed fishery.

Proposed recommendation for NWWAC (supported by the PelAC)

The NWWAC and PelAC recommend that the TAC for sprat in the English Channel is set according to the ICES advice.

The advice mentions the stock structure of sprat populations in the Celtic Seas ecoregion is unknown. The ACs fully support the valuable ongoing genetics stock-identification projects being carried out to better understand the stock structure of the sprat populations in the Celtic Seas ecoregion. In addition, in the context of improved management of the directed fishery, the PelAC will be examining the possibility of developing a management strategy for sprat in the Celtic Sea ecoregion once this stock-ID work is completed and the delineation of the stock boundaries is identified.

Given the key role that the stock has in the NWW ecosystem, for example as a forage fish for many predatory species, the ACs believe it would be important to incorporate ecosystem-based considerations in its management and assessment, and therefore encourage all the concerned parties to develop a roadmap for this purpose.

Additionally, the ACs consider that the development of future spatial measures on sprat should be proposed by managers and evaluated by ICES, focusing on their impact on the health of this critical species as well as on the impacts of the fishery on other targeted species.

Finally, the NWWAC and PelAC suggest that the current sprat management units should be evaluated by ICES.

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