ICES wants to slash quotas for this species in the North Atlantic


Sean Murphy, SeafoodSource online editor

Published on
September 30, 2015

New advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) shows the council is recommending a drastic cut in Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for mackerel in the northeast Atlantic for 2016.

The latest advice, released today, lists the new TAC at 667,385 metric tons (MT). For 2015, ICES’ upper limit for mackerel stands at 906,000 MT, making the new TAC a decrease of more than 26 percent.

The announcement drew criticism from fishermen, with Ian Gatt, CEO of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association saying fishermen out in the water report no such crisis in stock levels.

“The early year mackerel season was hugely successful with skippers reporting an unprecedented amount of mackerel in the sea,” Gatt said. “Regular reports of shoals extending 50 miles have been observed during the first quarter fishery. The autumn mackerel fishery has just kicked off in the northern North Sea and skippers are seeing plenty of mackerel out there.”

Gatt accused ICES of relying too heavily on data from a Nordic ecosystem survey which showed a decline in mackerel biomass.

“There has been a huge debate among scientists whether this type of information should be used to assess the abundance of pelagic fish including mackerel,” Gatt said. “But it’s clear to us that this information should not be included in the assessment. Our understanding is if this information hadn’t been used the advice would say the stock is in a stable condition.”

Along with mackerel, ICES issued a TAC for herring in the same region of 316,876 MT, an increase over the 283,000 MT predicted catch corresponding to advice for 2015. The 2016 TAC marks the first increase since 2009.

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