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Profile updated on 18 October 2019

SUMMARY

SUMMARY

IDENTIFICATION

SCIENTIFIC NAME(s)

Scomber scombrus

SPECIES NAME(s)

Atlantic mackerel

Northeast Atlantic mackerel defines the mackerel in the region from ICES Division subareas 1–8 and 14, and in Division 9.a. Spawning areas are equally widely distributed but catches are attributed to three spawning components by area – North Sea (4, 3a), Western (6, 7, 8 a,b,d,e) and Southern (8c, 9a). Fish from Southern and Western areas have been shown to migrate to the North Sea, Norwegian Sea and Baltic Sea after spawning where they become indistinct from other components. Given the uncertainties in the determination of a stock structure, an assessment unit is considered in the Northeast Atlantic and adjacent waters (Brunel et al. 2017)(ICES 2019).


ANALYSIS

Strengths
  • The management agreement, though lacking in its implementation, and not agreed between all states, is precautionary.
  • The estimate of the stock size is above its MSY reference point.
Weaknesses
  • There is no long-term management strategy for this fishery.
  • No international agreement exists between all states participating in the fishery and advised catches are routinely exceeded.
  • Fishing mortality in the entire area remains slight above FMSY.
  • The North Sea spawning biomass remains low. 

FISHSOURCE SCORES

Management Quality:

Management Strategy:

≥ 6

Managers Compliance:

8.1

Fishers Compliance:

9.5

Stock Health:

Current
Health:

10

Future Health:

7.8


RECOMMENDATIONS

RETAILERS & SUPPLY CHAIN
  • Coastal States (EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands) should welcome and expand the Coastal States Agreement (CSA) to include additional third party countries (e.g. Iceland, Russia and Greenland) participating in the fishery. This should also include a post-Brexit UK element as appropriate.
  • An expanded CSA should be a legally binding international agreement between all relevant coastal / fishing states that formally requires total landings from the fishery to be at or below the precautionary TAC advised by ICES.

FIPS

No related FIPs

CERTIFICATIONS

  • MINSA North East Atlantic mackerel:

    Suspended

  • Pelagic Freezer Trawler Association North East Atlantic mackerel pelagic trawl:

    Withdrawn

Fisheries

Within FishSource, the term "fishery" is used to indicate each unique combination of a flag country with a fishing gear, operating within a particular management unit, upon a resource. That resource may have a known biological stock structure and/or may be assessed at another level for practical or jurisdictional reasons. A fishery is the finest scale of resolution captured in FishSource profiles, as it is generally the scale at which sustainability can most fairly and practically be evaluated.

ASSESSMENT UNIT MANAGEMENT UNIT FLAG COUNTRY FISHING GEAR
NE Atlantic EU Denmark Midwater trawls
Purse seines
France Midwater trawls
Purse seines
Germany Midwater trawls
Ireland Midwater trawls
Lithuania Midwater trawls
Netherlands Midwater trawls
Poland Cast nets
Midwater trawls
Portugal Midwater trawls
Spain Midwater trawls
Pole-lines hand operated
Purse seines
Sweden Mechanized lines
Midwater trawls
Purse seines
United Kingdom Drift gillnets
Hooks and lines
Mechanized lines
Midwater trawls
Pole-lines hand operated
Faroe Islands Faroe Islands Midwater trawls
Seine nets
Iceland Iceland Midwater trawls
Norway Norway Midwater trawls
Pole-lines hand operated
Purse seines

Analysis

OVERVIEW

Last updated on 18 October 2019

Strengths
  • The management agreement, though lacking in its implementation, and not agreed between all states, is precautionary.
  • The estimate of the stock size is above its MSY reference point.
Weaknesses
  • There is no long-term management strategy for this fishery.
  • No international agreement exists between all states participating in the fishery and advised catches are routinely exceeded.
  • Fishing mortality in the entire area remains slight above FMSY.
  • The North Sea spawning biomass remains low. 
RECOMMENDATIONS

Last updated on 6 March 2019

Recommendations to Retailers & Supply Chain
  • Coastal States (EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands) should welcome and expand the Coastal States Agreement (CSA) to include additional third party countries (e.g. Iceland, Russia and Greenland) participating in the fishery. This should also include a post-Brexit UK element as appropriate.
  • An expanded CSA should be a legally binding international agreement between all relevant coastal / fishing states that formally requires total landings from the fishery to be at or below the precautionary TAC advised by ICES.

1.STOCK STATUS

STOCK ASSESSMENT

Last updated on 18 October 2019

An age-based analytical model (SAM) is used in the assessment, based on catch and tagging data and three survey indices. Partial discarding estimates are included in the assessment but recent discarding is not thought to be significant (ICES 2018).

An inter-benchmark process reviewed and modified the assessment in 2019, reducing the influence of the tagging data on the assessment, which significantly revised the 2018 assessment results, highlighting the instability of the assessment (ICES 2019).

Some conflicting signals are apparent in the data sources used and some of the time series are still short. Since the updated assessment, a substantial retrospective bias for fishing mortality (F) was verified (F was overestimated by more than 20%) (ICES 2019). Additionally, the distribution of the stock is very broad and has shifted over time and surveys may not be fully sampling the stock (ICES 2019).

The ICES recommends that onboard observer programs should be reinforced since discards can have great implications in the assessment of this species (ICES 2019).

SCIENTIFIC ADVICE

Last updated on 18 October 2019

Concerns over the influence of tagging data on the 2018 assessment results led to the development of an inter-benchmark process in 2019 to revisit the assessment method. A new method was proposed (ICES 2019) which was used to revise the 2018 advice in May 2019, leading to an upwards revision of the stock size, to above MSY Btrigger, and a downwards revision of fishing mortality, as well as an upwards re-estimate of the value of FMSY (ICES 2019).

For 2020, ICES advises that catches should not exceed 922,064 metric tons, under an approach aimed at fishing in the long term at maximum sustainable yield (MSY). This advice, issued in october 2019, increased the TAC advice in 20%  in relation to the updated advice for 2019 (published in May 2019) considering that the highest year-classes (2016 and 2017) are entering in the fishery and started to contribute to the reproductive stock (ICES 2019).

One of the three spawning components, that in the North Sea, is still of a reduced size due to earlier overexploitation, and ICES continues to recommend protection measures including closed areas and seasons and a minimum size (ICES 2019). ICES also advised that a minimum conservation size of this component of the stock needs to be established (ICES 2019).

CURRENT STATUS

Last updated on 18 October 2019

The last assessment (October 2019) results indicate that the stock is well above its MSY Btrigger point and precautionary and limit reference points (ICES 2019). The 2018 assessment had indicated that the stock had decreased to below its MSY Btrigger point in 2018, for the first time since 2007, but this was revised (May 2019). Fishers had reported increases in mackerel numbers in recent years (ICES 2018).

Fishing mortality is slight above FMSY, and has been above this newly calculated reference point since 1985. It is below its precautionary and limit reference points however. Catches have been increasing since the mid-2000s, and are considered to be considerably underreported prior to 2000. Catches estimates decreased about 11% between 2017 and 2018 (ICES 2019). Recruitment was strong from the early 2000s but the 2015 and 2016 classes had appeared to be small in the 2018 assessment, contributing to the reduction in stock size (ICES 2018). The 2019 review changed the model with regards to the information on abundance of younger fish, which has led to an upward revision of estimated recent recruitment. Recent recruiting classes are now thought to be strong (ICES 2019).

2.MANAGEMENT QUALITY

MANAGEMENT

Last updated on 18 October 2019

TACs were previously agreed amongst all fishing parties, but since 2008 no agreement has been reached on setting TACs, and quotas have been set unilaterally. In 2014 three of the Coastal States (Norway, the EU and the Faroe Islands) reached an agreement, that was later extended to 2020, including a harvest control rule that uses MSY reference points and linearly reduces the TAC when the stock is below its MSY trigger reference point (Anon 2018). ICES found the strategy to be precautionary in the long term (ICES 2017). However, there is no a long-term management strategy agreed by all states participating in the fishery. 

Management measures include a minimum landing size (MLS) for mackerel set at 30 cm for the North Sea and 20 cm in the western area. Other additional measures are in place to protect the North Sea component (e.g. closed areas) (ICES 2019).

Summed quotas set by all fishing parties have continuously exceeded advised catch levels although the sum of the unilateral TAC has been decreasing in the last 2 years (ICES 2019).

COMPLIANCE

Last updated on 18 October 2019

Total mackerel catches are estimated by ICES and include discards where available, but are considered to be underestimated due to discards, slippage and under-reporting, although discarding and slipping is thought to have decreased (ICES 2019). This stock is target mainly by a directed fishery for human consumption by Norway (18%), Iceland (16%), Scotland (15%), Russia (12%) and Faroe (8%) (Hough et al. 2016)(ICES 2019).

In general, total catches have surpassed set TACs. From 2009, catches have been close to the sum of the quotas set for the entire area, but considerably exceeded ICES’ advice, and have been increasing since 2006. Fishing mortality was also above that foreseen in the management plan, when this was in force. According to ICES, the lack of international agreements on the exploitation of the stock since 2008 is of critical concern, and hinders control of the total exploitation rates.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) suspended all MSC certificates associated to this fishery in March 2019 due to the lack of a long-term strategy agreed by all countries involved in this fishery and due to the recurrent catches volumes above the advised values.

3.ENVIRONMENT AND BIODIVERSITY

BYCATCH
ETP Species

Last updated on 18 October 2019

The stock is distributed through a vast area, and many marine mammals, seabirds and other endangered, threatened or protected (ETP) species are known to occur in these waters. A wide variety of marine mammals, including several species of whales considered by the IUCN to be endangered, and hooded seals, classified as vulnerable (IUCN, 2009), overlap with mackerel’s distribution in the North-east Atlantic. Data on bycatch of protected species have been collected by observers and there is no evidence that ETP species have been affected by the pelagic trawl fisheries in NE Atlantic although this gear has been classified as bycatch medium risk (Hough et al. 2016)(ICES 2019). Also, the bycatch of small cetaceans by pelagic trawl is considered low (ICES 2017).

Nesting or overwintering seabirds may also be affected by the fishery on several levels: bycatch of seabirds may occur (ICES 2018) but no specific information is available on the effects of the mackerel fishery on seabirds in the region.

Many elasmobranchs in the region which also increasingly vulnerable and marine turtles reported towards the south of mackerel’s range (ICES, 2008c) could be at risk of bycatch but no reports are available.

Other Species

Last updated on 18 October 2019

NE Atlantic mackerel is mainly targeted by pelagic trawl (83%) and purse seine (17%) (ICES 2019). Overall, the bycatch of non-target species in the mackerel fishery is considered minimal and gear improvements has been increasing selectivity (Hough et al. 2016) (ICES 2019). There is some overlap with the Norwegian Spring-Spawning (NSS), in the northern extent of the Atlantic mackerel range, creating some bycatch issues for the vessels targeting mackerel in this area (ICES, 2009b; ICES, 2011b). The other non-target species in this fishery are herring and horse mackerel but together represent less than 1% of the total catch (Hough et al. 2016).

From 2019 onwards the EU landings obligation is generally effective which bycatch and discards are expected to remain at low levels. There are specific exemptions (de minimis) for mackerel caught in bottom-trawl fisheries in the North-Western Waters and in the North Sea. A general discard ban is already in place for Norwegian, Faroese and Icelandic fisheries (ICES 2019).

Slipping (i.e. the release of unwanted catch still in the water) is not allowed in Faroese waters (Kiseleva et al. 2016). The slipping of small pelagic species like mackerel can lead to high rates of mortality (Marçalo et al. 2019).

HABITAT

Last updated on 18 October 2019

Most fleets target mackerel with pelagic gear (midwater trawl), where direct effects on the habitat and seabed are not thought to be significant (Kiseleva et al. 2016), but demersal trawls are used by Spanish fleets and are known to damage benthic communities besides having a larger rate of discarding (ICES, 2008c).

Several areas in NE Atlantic waters where defined to protect vulnerable marine environments (VME) such as coldwater corals and sponges (ICES 2019). See VME map here.  

The south-west mackerel box, an area off the coast of Cornwall in Southern England, was set up in 1981 in order to protect juvenile mackerel in a known nursery area, at a time when fishing effort was particularly high and discarding of small mackerel a major issue. The area was further expanded in 1989 and is closed to mackerel fishing with the exception of handliners. The fishery is also closed in Divisions IIIa and IVb,c on a permanent basis in order to protect the North Sea component and Western juveniles and in Division IVa during the first half of the year (ICES, 2012a).

In addition, in EU waters there are marine areas of the EU Natura 2000 network of special conservation, under the Birds Directive 79/409/EEC and the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC in place. 

ECOSYSTEM

Last updated on 18 October 2019

Northeast Atlantic mackerel is a widely distributed species from Iberian waters to North Norway, Iceland, and Greenland. The spatial distribution of mackerel changed in the last decade influenced by several environmental factors, as the water temperature (Nikolioudakis et al. 2019), starting to be fishing in northern areas (Jansen et al. 2016). This also implied changes in the fishing season for mackerel, for example, occurring early in the Cantabrian Sea reflecting changes in mackerel behavior migration in response to climate change effects (ICES 2018).

This species is crucial for the ecosystem, as predator and prey: mackerel feeds on zooplankton and larval and juvenile stages of small fish and mollusks and is prey by other fish species, seabirds, and marine mammals. Mackerel, herring and blue whiting might be strong competitors in certain areas (Trenkel et al. 2014). There are other important species interactions: cannibalism and interspecific predation (e.g. herring) (ICES 2019).

ICES Working Group (WGWIDE) recommends more studies on the ecosystem implications of this widely distributed species, including the NE Atlantic mackerel, Norwegian spring-spawning herring, blue whiting and horse mackerel (ICES 2019).

FishSource Scores

Last updated on 18 October 2019

MANAGEMENT QUALITY

As calculated for 2019 data.

The score is ≥ 6.

A management strategy is in place, agreed by three of the Coastal States (Norway, EU and Faroes), but no plan has been agreed upon by all parties.

As calculated for 2019 data.

The score is 8.1.

This measures the Set TAC as a percentage of the Advised TAC.

The Set TAC is 864 ('000 t). The Advised TAC is 770 ('000 t) .

The underlying Set TAC/Advised TAC for this index is 112%.

As calculated for 2018 data.

The score is 9.5.

This measures the Estimated catch as a percentage of the Set TAC.

The Estimated catch is 1030 ('000 t). The Set TAC is 998 ('000 t) .

The underlying Estimated catch/Set TAC for this index is 103%.

STOCK HEALTH:

As calculated for 2019 data.

The score is 10.0.

This measures the SSB as a percentage of the MSY Btrigger.

The SSB is 4390 ('000 t). The MSY Btrigger is 2500 ('000 t) .

The underlying SSB/MSY Btrigger for this index is 176%.

As calculated for 2018 data.

The score is 7.8.

This measures the F as a percentage of the Fmsy.

The F is 0.240 (age-averaged). The Fmsy is 0.230 .

The underlying F/Fmsy for this index is 104%.

To see data for biomass, please view this site on a desktop.
To see data for catch and tac, please view this site on a desktop.
To see data for fishing mortality, please view this site on a desktop.
No data available for recruitment
No data available for recruitment
To see data for management quality, please view this site on a desktop.
To see data for stock status, please view this site on a desktop.
DATA NOTES
  1. For score calculation purposes, the advised TACs graphed from 2005 to 2015 correspond to the averages of the advised ranges under the previous management plan. From 2016 it corresponds to an MSY approach in the absence of a management plan. A management plan has been evaluated and determined to be precautionary but has not been agreed upon by all fishing countries.
  2. Since no international agreement has been reached on the TACs since 2009, graphed values are the sum of unilateral TACs.
  3. Catch data is ICES's estimate, including discards, slippage and underreporting but which are thought to be underestimated.
  4. The 2019 Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) value is estimated by ICES from the forecast.

Download Source Data

Registered users can download the original data file for calculating the scores after logging in. If you wish, you can Register now.

Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs)

No related FIPs

Certifications

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

SELECT MSC

NAME

MINSA North East Atlantic mackerel

STATUS

Suspended on 2 March 2019

SCORES

The effective date of suspension is March 2nd 2019.

"Please note this fishery is formed of 7 fisheries previously engaged in the MSC programme indepdently which have combined. These fisheries are: SPSG Scottish Western mackerel, DPPO North East Atlantic mackerel, IPSA Western mackerel, IPSG Western mackerel pelagic trawl, North East Atlantic mackerel pelagic trawl, purse seine and handline, PFA North East Atlantic mackerel, SPFPO North East Atlantic mackerel."

Principle Level Scores:

Principle Score
Principle 1 – Target Species 81.9
Principle 2 - Ecosystem - Europe 95
Principle 2 - Ecosystem - Norway 93.7
Principle 3 – Management System - Europe 83.8
Principle 3 – Management System - Norway 87.8

Certification Type: Silver

Sources

Credits
  1. Det Norske Veritas (DNV), Intertek Moody Marine (IMM), Food Certification International Ltd (FCI), 2012. North East Atlantic Mackerel Fisheries. MSC Certification - Confirmation of Suspension.http://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/certified/north-east-atlantic/sppo-north-east-atlantic-mackerel/assessment-downloads-1/20120328_ANMT_Suspension.pdf
  2. EC, 2011. Council Regulation (EC) No 57/2011 of 18 January 2011, fixing for 2011 the fishing opportunities for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in EU waters and, for EU vessels, in certain non-EU waters.http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:024:0001:0125:EN:PDF
  3. Faroese Ministry of Fisheries, 2011. Faroese Mackerel Fisheries in 2011. Press release, 16-03-2011.http://www.us.fo/Default.aspx?ID=2396&M=News&PID=6412&NewsID=3552
  4. FikiStofa, accessed 15July2016. Mackerel catches and allowed catch. http://www.fiskistofa.is/english/quotas-and-catches/mackerel-fisheries/aflastada_makrill.jsp?lang=en
  5. ICES, 2008a. Report of the Working Group on Widely Distributed Stocks (WGWIDE), 2-11 September 2008, ICES Headquarters, Copenhagen (ICES CM 2008\ACOM:13). http://www.ices.dk/reports/ACOM/2008/WGWIDE/WGWIDE08.pdf
  6. ICES, 2008b. Report of the ICES Advisory Committee on Fishery Management, Advisory Committee on the Marine Environment and Advisory Committee on Ecosystems, Book 9: Widely distributed and Migratory Stocks. 9.4.2 Northeast Atlantic mackerel (combined Southern, Western, and North Sea spawning components).http://www.ices.dk/committe/acom/comwork/report/2008/2008/mac-nea.pdf
  7. ICES, 2008c. Report of the Working Group for Regional Ecosystem Description (WGRED), 25-29 February 2008, ICES, Copenhagen, Denmark (ICES CM 2008/ACOM:47). http://www.ices.dk/reports/ACOM/2008/WGRED/wgred_2008.pdf
  8. ICES, 2009a. Report of the ICES Advisory Committee. Book 9: Widely distributed and Migratory Stocks. 9.4.2 Mackerel in the Northeast Atlantic (combined Southern, Western, and North Sea spawning components).http://www.ices.dk/committe/acom/comwork/report/2009/2009/mac-nea.pdf
  9. ICES, 2009b. Report of the Working Group on Widely Distributed Stocks (WGWIDE), 2-8 September 2009, Copenhagen, Denmark (ICES CM 2009/ACOM:12).http://www.ices.dk/reports/ACOM/2009/WGWIDE/WGWIDE09.pdf
  10. ICES, 2010a. Report of the ICES Advisory Committee. Book 9: Widely Distributed and Migratory Stocks. 9.4.2. Mackerel in the Northeast Atlantic (combined Southern, Western, and North Sea spawning components).http://www.ices.dk/committe/acom/comwork/report/2010/2010/mac-nea.pdf
  11. ICES, 2010b. Report of the Working Group on Widely Distributed Stocks (WGWIDE), 28 August - 3 September 2010, Vigo, Spain (ICES CM 2010/ACOM:15). 612 pp.http://www.ices.dk/reports/ACOM/2010/WGWIDE/WGWIDE%202010.pdf
  12. ICES, 2011a. Report of the ICES Advisory Committee. Book 9: Widely Distributed and Migratory Stocks. 9.4.2. Mackerel in the Northeast Atlantic (combined Southern, Western, and North Sea spawning components).http://www.ices.dk/committe/acom/comwork/report/2011/2011/mac-nea.pdf
  13. ICES, 2011b. Report of the Working Group on Widely Distributed Stocks (WGWIDE), 23 - 29 August 2011, ICES Headquarters, Copenhagen, Denmark (ICES CM 2011/ACOM:15). 642 pp.http://www.ices.dk/reports/ACOM/2011/WGWIDE/WGWIDE%20Report%202011.pdf
  14. ICES, 2012a. Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, Book 9: Widely Distributed and Migratory Stocks 9.4.2 Ecoregion: Widely Distributed and Migratory Stocks. Stock: Mackerel in the Northeast Atlantic (combined Southern, Western, and North Sea spawning components). Advice summary for 2012, 23 pp. http://www.ices.dk/committe/acom/comwork/report/2011/2011/mac-nea.pdf
  15. ICES, 2012b. Report of the Working Group on Widely Distributed Stocks (WGWIDE), 21 - 27 August 2012, Lowestoft, United Kingdom. ICES CM 2012/ACOM:15. 931pp.WGWIDE_2012.pdf
  16. ICES, 2014. Report of the Working Group on Mixed Fisheries Advice for the North Sea (WGMIXFISH-NS), 26-30 May 2014, ICES HQ, Copenhagen, Denmark. ICES CM 2014/ACOM:22. 95 pp.http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Expert%20Group%20Report/acom/2014/WGMIXFISH-NS/01%20WGMIXFISH-NS%20report%202014.pdf
  17. ICES, 2015. Report of the ICES Committee 2015. Book 9, 9.3.25: Mackerel (Scomber scombus) in Subareas I-VII and XIV and Divisions VIIIa-e and IXa (Northeast Atlantic). http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2015/2015/mac-nea.pdf
  18. IUCN, 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1. [Downloaded on 24 October 2009].http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  19. MSC, 2014. North East Atlantic Mackerel Fisheries – Acceptance of Mackerel Industry Northern Sustainability Alliance (MINSA) Corrective Action Plan.http://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/fisheries-in-the-program/certified/north-east-atlantic/DPPO-NE-Atlantic-mackerel/assessment-downloads-1/20140117_Corrective_Action_Plan_Acceptance_letter_MAC33.pdf
  20. NEAFC, 2015. Agreed Record of Conclusions of Fisheries Consultations between the Faroe Islands, the European Union and Norway on the Management of Mackerel in the Northeast Atlantic for 2016. Clonakilty, 23 October 2015. http://cdn.lms.fo/media/7038/agreed-record-mackerel.pdf
  21. OSPAR, 2010. 2009/10 Status Report on the OSPAR Network of Marine Protected Areas. Publ. no. 493/2010. OSPAR Commission: Biodiversity Series. 61 pp.http://www.ospar.org/documents/dbase/publications/p00493_Status%20report%20MPAs.pdf
References

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