Following a revision in the way mackerel stocks are measured by scientists, the 2019 harvest quota for the Norwegian mackerel fishery more than doubled from the level set late last year.
The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) sets European fishery quotas after an assessment of stock size. New calculations have led ICES scientists to raise the stock size estimate from 2,35 million tonnes to 4,2 million tonnes, enabling a quota increase by 450.000 tonnes to the new level of 770.358 tonnes.
In March 2019, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) revoked its certification of the Norwegian mackerel fishery, and fishermen are hopeful that ICES’s new, larger quota will induce MSC to reinstate the fishery’s certification.
A new study claims that the EU will not reach its 2020 goal of sustainably caught fish, as EU ministers continue allowing catches higher than the recommended limits set by scientists. The New Economics Foundation (NEF), an NGO based in the UK, claims that the 2019 TACs for nearly half of EU commercial fish species were set higher than the scientific advice. They found that 55 TAC’s were set above recommended levels equating to approximately 312,000 tonnes in excess catch. The Northeast Atlantic TACs were on average set 16% above scientific advice, an increase of 9% from 2018. Early negotiations for the Baltic Sea and deep sea TACs are currently set higher than expert advice.
Recommendations by The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) sees a drastic reduction in fishing opportunities for mackerel (Scomber Scombrus) in 2019. ICES recommended a reduction of 42%, which would seriously affect the Cantabrian coastal fleet.
Such a drastic reduction comes off the back of the latest ICES study on the population of mackerel. Scientists from ICES suggest that the total catches should not exceed 318 403 tonnes in 2019. For 2018, The European Union, Norway and the Faroe Islands agreed to a quota of 816 797 tonnes. 550 948 tonnes above the limit recommended by ICES for 2019.
Reasoning behind such a drastic reduction is twofold. The decrease in the spawning biomass since 2011 and a fishing mortality that biologists consider is above the maximum sustainable yield (MSY).
If these recommendations are followed it would leave the EU with approximately half of the 318 043 tonnes due to distributions it makes with Norway and the Faroe Islands. Due to EU allocations Spain would have 76 % of the total or equivalent to 11 927 tonnes.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing for short) is one of the greatest threats to the sustainability of fishing, marine ecosystems, marine biodiversity, and human food security. Although international bodies and the UN regard illegal fishing as an environmental crime and the European Union has adopted a regulation to combat IUU fishing the problem has not been fully resolved because there are still gaps and loopholes.
Illegal, undocumented and unregulated fishing, also known as pirate fishing, has many facets. In deep-sea fishing, it is understood to mean all types of commercial fishing carried out without the necessary licence, in which the fishing quota authorised under the fishing licence is exceeded, or in which the quantities caught are not, not completely or incorrectly documented. However, it is also considered to be IUU fishing if a fishing vessel fishes in territorial waters of other nations without permission, or if it violates the fishing laws of that country, for example by ignoring fishing times and protected areas. The territorial waters of some West African countries, for example, are among the preferred fishing areas for pirate fishing. In none of these countries is there a strong fisheries control authority, so that the pirate vessels are not in much danger of being caught.
A number of institutions are involved in deciding how much fish can be harvested from the sea
Fishing quotas have an immediate impact on the players in the fisheries sector and the release of the numbers is closely watched by all concerned. The route by which raw data is converted into the precise figures that are published as fishing quotas is long, with inputs from several institutions, and gives an idea of the enormous significance attached to these numbers.
Fish, individually or in swarms, can usually be found in places offering them the best for their lives: where they find food, where it is safe to reproduce and survive as species. Such preferences, together with environmental conditions, may vary from year to year, and hence the number of fish coming together may vary as well. Fishermen know where to find the fish and are familiar with annual fluctuations. Fishing grounds, when seen as fish habitats, do not feature national borders, whereas fishing vessels carry the flags of their home ports. Fish stocks which are international by nature thus have national owners when turned into catches. The subsets of these fishable stocks allocated to and harvested by sovereign states are called fishing quotas.