Irish fishers criticize scientific advice as EU, Norway and Faroes agree to slash 2019 mackerel catch

Published on
December 3, 2018

Negotiations between the EU, Norway, and Faroes in Bergen, Norway, concluded with the signing of a tripartite agreement that sets the 2019 total allowable catch (TAC) of Northeast Atlantic mackerel at 653,438 metric tons (MT), which is 20 percent lower than this year’s TAC. 

They also agreed to extend the Three Parties Agreement for a further two years.

In a statement, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) said that it was very disappointed but not surprised at the outcome given that the scientific advice issued at the end of September was recommending a much larger reduction of 61 percent. The advice also stated that the stock had been in decline since 2011.

The KFO said that one positive outcome from the agreement was that the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) had agreed to carry out a re-evaluation of the mackerel advice in early 2019.

“I am obviously very disappointed with the reduction but under the circumstances given the large reduction of 61 percent advised by ICES, the hands of the three parties were tied into a reduction. At least, they decided on a common-sense approach to take the reduction over a two-year period,” said Seán O’Donoghue, CEO of the KFO.

O’Donoghue said that he was “very confident” the second part of the reduction would not be required as the scientific advice was not correct, and that he expects the ICES re-evaluation will confirm the industry view that there is a still a very healthy mackerel stock in the Northeast Atlantic. 

Large shoals of mackerel have been evidenced over the entire distribution area by the Irish pelagic fleet and others, he said. 

“Based upon these observations, we believe the stock size has greatly increased. This increase in the stock size is not confined to one area, nor observed by only one fleet. This is contrary to ICES stated view that the stock is declining since 2011.

“This is yet another major mistake in the mackerel advice not to mention the mistakes made last year and again this year on Atlanto Scandia herring. I am very concerned that ICES does not have a fit-for-purpose quality assurance system in place. This must be addressed as matter of urgency. There have been far too many mistakes over the last number of years and it is undermining confidence in the scientific advice."

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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