Pelagic fishers at odds with proposed NEA mackerel quota cuts

Published on
October 4, 2018

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has come under fire from the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SFPA) for its advised cuts for next year’s Northeast Atlantic mackerel catch.

ICES has advised that when the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) approach is applied, catches in 2019 should be no more than 318,403 metric tons (MT), down 42 percent from this year’s 550,948 MT. It said that the current assessment showed that the spawning stock biomass (SSB) is declining, and that due to a combination of high fishing pressure and below average recent recruitments, short-term projections indicate that the SSB will continue to decrease in 2018 and 2019.

However, Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SPFA), said there was “considerable uncertainty” over the accuracy of this year’s scientific assessment due to a number of factors, including concerns over how the assessment model uses data from tagged mackerel, which has “pulled down” the calculated spawning stock biomass figure. 

Gatt highlighted that tagged mackerel data has only been used in the assessment process in recent times, and because its data shows a much higher biomass reduction, it conflicts with other data in the scientific process. 

This, he said, “throws doubt” on the overall stock assessment. 

The ICES perception of the stock is also contrary to that witnessed by fishermen on the fishing grounds, Gatt said. Furthermore, the current assessment is also using egg survey information from two years ago, and the SFPA is hopeful that a new egg survey data available next year will ensure a more accurate assessment of the stock. 

Mackerel scientists will also be forming a working group in the early part of next year to look at the issues with the tagging information and how data is processed by the assessment model, he said.

“As a responsible industry, we are committed to ensuring a sustainable fishery, and we will be working with our partners in the E.U., Norway and Faroes on how we can all work closely together to aid this process of ensuring the best possible science when assessing the stock," Gatt said. "We are also committed to working with Scottish and U.K. governments and coastal states’ fisheries managers to find an acceptable solution to managing the 2019 fishery."

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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