Profile updated on 30 September 2016

SUMMARY

SUMMARY

IDENTIFICATION

SCIENTIFIC NAME(s)

Pleuronectes platessa

SPECIES NAME(s)

European plaice

Several genetic and tagging experiments have been conducted in the NE Atlantic region (e.g. Hoarau et al., 2002; Was et al., 2010; Ulrich et al. 2013). The stock complex consists of sub-populations with distinct spawning grounds; some of them present a strong fidelity behaviour (Hunter et al., 2003) however gene flow is also found among some populations (Hoarau et al., 2002). Different assessments are performed within ICES division VII: Irish Sea (VIIa), West of Ireland (VIIb,c), Eastern English Channel (VIId) and Western English Channel (VIIe), Celtic Sea (VIIf,g), SW of Ireland (VIIh-k).

There is some uncertainty surrounding the stock structure of the Eastern and Western Channel fisheries, as some migration occurs during spawning season (ICES, 2012a).


ANALYSIS

Strengths

• Spawning stock biomass is trending at a 30-year high level, well above its spawning biomass target; it has trended above the most recently estimated MSY Btrigger since the 1980s.
• Discarding of undersized plaice is low relative to rates in neighboring regions.
• Discarding is factored into ICES’ advice.
• Catches in 2013 were below the joint TAC.
• In 2013, ICES began providing separate advised TAC’s, specific to catches of the Western Channel stock harvested in Divisions VIId and VIIe.

Weaknesses

• Fishing mortality, while on a decreasing, remains slightly above FMSY.
• Despite ICES having begun partitioning their advised catches between the Eastern and Western Channel (Divisions VIId and VIIe), a combined set TAC is still established for the two management areas, resulting in no control of fishing mortality on the Division VIIe stock.
• Total catches are frequently at or higher than the joint TAC.
• Discard rates of undersized plaice, while relatively low, are increasing.
• The rate of interactions with endangered elasmobranchs is considered to be high.
• High interaction occurs between the fishery’s demersal trawl gear and many elasmobranch species, and there are PET species that may be impacted.
• Towed demersal gear is hard on the benthos, and may reduce the carrying capacity of these habitats through secondary effects.
• Surrounding nets (e.g. gillnets), while not a major gear component for plaice harvest, are a high risk for cetacean species.

Options

• Harvests should be managed at the resolution afforded by ICES advised TACs (i.e. unique set TACs for portions of the stock harvested in Divisions VIId and VIIe).
• Stock assessment should better incorporate migration between components.
• To guarantee stock health in years of poor recruitment, efforts to further reduce F to below Fmsy should continue.
• Exploration of gear modifications to reduce bycatch and discarding, and further minimize impacts on the benthos should continue.
• The impact on PET species and sensitive habitats should be properly monitored and mitigated for.

FISHSOURCE SCORES

Management Quality:

Management Strategy:

≥ 6

Managers Compliance:

≥ 6

Fishers Compliance:

≥ 8

Stock Health:

Current
Health:

10

Future Health:

7.4


RECOMMENDATIONS

CATCHERS & REGULATORS

1. Start a fishery improvement project to address sustainability issues in this fishery. For advice on starting a FIP, see SFP’s Seafood Industry Guide to FIPs at http://www.sustainablefish.org/publications/2014/04/30/the-seafood-industry-guide-to-fips.
2. Communicate to fishery managers that there are sustainability issues in this fishery that may be affecting the sale of products, and request that they comprehensively evaluate and address such issues.

RETAILERS & SUPPLY CHAIN

1. Encourage your supply chain to start a fishery improvement project. For advice on starting a FIP see SFP’s Seafood Industry Guide to FIPs at http://www.sustainablefish.org/publications/2014/04/30/the-seafood-industry-guide-to-fips.
2. Work with other suppliers and buyers on a pre-competitive basis to start a supplier roundtable to review improvement needs in this and other similar fisheries, catalyze fishery improvement projects, and monitor progress in improvement efforts.


FIPS

No related FIPs

CERTIFICATIONS

No related MSC fisheries

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
Western English Channel EU United Kingdom Beam trawls
Single boat bottom otter trawls

Analysis

OVERVIEW

Last updated on 25 June 2015

Strengths

• Spawning stock biomass is trending at a 30-year high level, well above its spawning biomass target; it has trended above the most recently estimated MSY Btrigger since the 1980s.
• Discarding of undersized plaice is low relative to rates in neighboring regions.
• Discarding is factored into ICES’ advice.
• Catches in 2013 were below the joint TAC.
• In 2013, ICES began providing separate advised TAC’s, specific to catches of the Western Channel stock harvested in Divisions VIId and VIIe.

Weaknesses

• Fishing mortality, while on a decreasing, remains slightly above FMSY.
• Despite ICES having begun partitioning their advised catches between the Eastern and Western Channel (Divisions VIId and VIIe), a combined set TAC is still established for the two management areas, resulting in no control of fishing mortality on the Division VIIe stock.
• Total catches are frequently at or higher than the joint TAC.
• Discard rates of undersized plaice, while relatively low, are increasing.
• The rate of interactions with endangered elasmobranchs is considered to be high.
• High interaction occurs between the fishery’s demersal trawl gear and many elasmobranch species, and there are PET species that may be impacted.
• Towed demersal gear is hard on the benthos, and may reduce the carrying capacity of these habitats through secondary effects.
• Surrounding nets (e.g. gillnets), while not a major gear component for plaice harvest, are a high risk for cetacean species.

Options

• Harvests should be managed at the resolution afforded by ICES advised TACs (i.e. unique set TACs for portions of the stock harvested in Divisions VIId and VIIe).
• Stock assessment should better incorporate migration between components.
• To guarantee stock health in years of poor recruitment, efforts to further reduce F to below Fmsy should continue.
• Exploration of gear modifications to reduce bycatch and discarding, and further minimize impacts on the benthos should continue.
• The impact on PET species and sensitive habitats should be properly monitored and mitigated for.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Last updated on 31 August 2016

Improvement Recommendations to Catchers & Regulators

1. Start a fishery improvement project to address sustainability issues in this fishery. For advice on starting a FIP, see SFP’s Seafood Industry Guide to FIPs at http://www.sustainablefish.org/publications/2014/04/30/the-seafood-industry-guide-to-fips.
2. Communicate to fishery managers that there are sustainability issues in this fishery that may be affecting the sale of products, and request that they comprehensively evaluate and address such issues.

Recommendations to Retailers & Supply Chain

1. Encourage your supply chain to start a fishery improvement project. For advice on starting a FIP see SFP’s Seafood Industry Guide to FIPs at http://www.sustainablefish.org/publications/2014/04/30/the-seafood-industry-guide-to-fips.
2. Work with other suppliers and buyers on a pre-competitive basis to start a supplier roundtable to review improvement needs in this and other similar fisheries, catalyze fishery improvement projects, and monitor progress in improvement efforts.

1.STOCK STATUS

STOCK ASSESSMENT

Last updated on 23 March 2015

An age-based analytical assessment (XSA) is used, tuned with two survey indices and three commercial data series (ICES 2014a). Maturity data, drawn from surveys, and natural mortality estimates, taken from plaice in Division VIIa, are included as inputs to the model.Some catch and age information from Division VIId is also included, to account for migration between the Eastern and Western Channels that occurs during spawning. ICES notes that age composition from French and Belgian fleets would strengthen the assessment.Discard estimates are factored into ICES advice, but are not incorporated in their analytical models because the data series is too short.While discard estimates may be considered for use in future assessments,ICES notes that the rates are relatively low, and thus unlikely to significantly alter SSB and mortality trend estimates (ICES 2013d; ICES 2014a).

SCIENTIFIC ADVICE

Last updated on 26 March 2015

The scientific advice and for the Channel plaice stocks is somewhat misaligned with the management unit.Some of the Western Channel (Division VIIe) plaice population is harvested in the Eastern Channel (Division VIId) during spawning (ICES 2014a), and the two areas are managed under a single TAC. Meanwhile, ICES treats plaice in each division as distinct stocks, providing separate scientific advice for each. Until 2013, ICES did not allocate their advice for the VIIe stock by area of capture (in either VIId or VIIe).However, they have been adjusting their approach. Their advice for each of the two divisions in 2015 includes separate columns of advised landings corresponding to totals for the respective stock and management units.

For 2015, ICES bases their advised catches for the Division VIIe plaice stock on a Maximum Sustained Yield (MSY) approach, translating into a maximum catch of 1,885 t, and landings of no more than 1,546 t, assuming no change in the 2012-2013 discard rate estimate (ICES 2014a). This is projected to lead to a SSB of 5,620 tons in 2015, and implies a decrease in F from 0.27 in 2013 to 0.24 in 2015.

ICES presumes that the proportion of the VIIe stock taken in Division VIId will remain constant, in which case the corresponding advice for Division VIIe catches equates to a maximumof 1,607 t with 1,318 t landed.

Reference Points

Last updated on 26 Mar 2015

ICES’ advice for the Western Channel plaice stock has been based on the MSY assessment framework since 2012. The assessment in that year followed a period of increasing SSB, which was reflected in a revised MSY Btrigger estimate (1,650 tons, based on the lowest estimated SSB from which the stock has recovered). FMSY, estimated at 0.24, is based on Fmax, the F where equilibrium yield per recruit is maximized. These estimates remain unchanged since the 2012 revision (ICES, 2012a).

CURRENT STATUS

Last updated on 26 March 2015

Fishing mortality has been declining since 2007, but remains just above FMSY (ICES, 2014a). The stock is well above its spawning biomass target reference point and is increasing as a result of the reduced fishing mortality as well as stronger recruitment in 2009-2011.

Trends

Last updated on 26 Mar 2015

The Western Channel plaice stock has exhibited a cyclical trend of increasing and decreasing abundance, but SSB has remained above the most recently calculated MSY Btrigger over the entire time-series. The latest assessment shows a historical low point of 1,713 tons (just above MSY Btrigger) in 2008. Abundance has since recovered, with above-average recruitments in 2009–2011 contributing to a peak SSB of 5,533 tons 2014. Abundance reached the next highest peak SSB of 5,508 tons in 1989, climbing from 2,409 tons in 1980. Between 1994 and 2010, the SSB did not exceed 3,000 tons (ICES, 2014a).

Fishing mortality throughout the time series has been consistently higher than the most recently calculated FMSY, exceeding 0.5 in the majority of years,and increasing to over 0.7in 2007. However, F has since declined to only slightly above FMSY, hitting a low of0.27 in 2014. Landings peaked around 1990 at over 3,000 tons/year and then decreased to just over 1,300 tons in 1996. Landings were the lowest in 2009 at slightly more than 1,000 tons, but have since increased, to over 1,500 tons annually between 2011 and 2013 (ICES, 2014a).

2.MANAGEMENT QUALITY

MANAGEMENT

Last updated on 26 March 2015

Management of the English Channel place stocks is complicated because of migratory overlap between the Western (Division VIIe) and Eastern (Division VIId) Channels; some of the western population is taken in the Eastern Channel during spawning (ICES 2014b).Accordingly, EC authorities set a single TAC for plaice harvested Divisions VIId and VIIe.

In 2015, the joint TAC for Divisions VIId and VIIe was set at 4,790 tonnes (Regulation (EU) No 2015/104 (CEC 2015)). Meanwhile, the sum of ICES’ advised landings for the two management areas in 2015 is 4,787 t (3,469 t for Division VIId and 1,318 t for Division VIIe) (ICES 2014a; 2014b).

Technical measures including mesh and minimum landing sizes are also in use. There is no management plan for plaice, but beam trawlers, gillnetters, trammel netters and tangle netters are effort managed, by days-at-sea, via the Western Channel sole management plan. These restrictions appear to be of benefit to the plaice stock (2014a; 2014d).

According to a recent Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA), management under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and restrictions on beam length in trawl fisheries ameliorate the impact of the fishery (Seafish 2014a).TheERA rated the level of consequence from direct mortality or injury that the Western Channel and Celtic Sea beam trawl fisheries impose on local plaice stocks as a ‘3.7’, where a score of ‘3’ reflects an impact that is unlikely to irreversibly contravene management objectives, and a score of ‘4’ reflects major impact requiring several years to repair. The fishery scored a ‘4.0’ prior to adjusting based on the ameliorating factors.

Recovery Plans

Last updated on 26 Mar 2015

None required.

COMPLIANCE

Last updated on 22 March 2015

Total catches (Divisions VIId and VIIe) have frequently been at or slightly above the joint TAC. However in 2013, the total landings (Eastern and Western stock) were below the joint TAC by approximately 12% (ICES 2014a, 2014d).

Between 2002 and 2008, plaice discards by weight in DIvision VIIe increased from 5% to 13% (ICES 2013d). The rate in 2013 was estimated to be 17% (ICES 2014a).However, these estimates are still low relative to those for neighboring plaice stocks (ICES 2014b, 2014d). Meanwhile, sampling effort has simultaneously increased.

Based on data from the English fishing fleet (overall catch, not species specific), most discarding in the English Channel is associated with market inconstancy and lack of market, while in contrast discards in the North Sea and Irish Sea are predominantly driven by regulatory factors (quota restrictions and size limits) (DEFRA 2011). However, as 60-70% of plaice that are discarded in Division VIIe are regarded as immature (ICES 2013d), it seems likely that size restrictions factor more significantly in discarding for plaice than for the general species complex.

3.ENVIRONMENT AND BIODIVERSITY

BYCATCH
ETP Species

Last updated on 25 June 2015

Bottom trawl gears (otter and beam) used to target plaice in the Celtic Seas may take all manner of species as bycatch, including some listed as “endangered” or “critically endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).Provided herein is a synopsis of PET species that are significant with regard to their conservation status, their likely level of interaction with the fishery and potential for adverse impacts. Details are summarized in Table 1. This synopsis should not be considered exhaustive in terms of the PET species in the region that could be encountered.

Table 1. Potentially impacted PET species in bottom trawl fisheries targeting European plaice in the Western English Channel (ICES Divisions VIIIe).

Species Occurence in Division1 IUCN Status2 SICA Score3 SICA assessed gear EC prohibited in Subarea VII? ICES Advice
VIIe
Angel shark (Squatina squatina) Rare CR (Ferretti et al. 2015) 4.5 Trawlers, netters & longliners Yes No target fishery, minimize bycatch
Common skate (Dipturus batis complex) P CR (Dulvy et al. 2006a) 4.5 Trawlers, netters & longliners Yes No target fishery, minimize bycatch
Common skate – blue (D. cf. flossada) P CR Yes No target fishery, minimize bycatch
Common skate – flapper ( D. cf. intermedia) U CR Yes No target fishery, minimize bycatch
Spurdog (Squalus acanthias) W CR (Fordham et al. 2006b) 3.4 Trawlers, netters & longliners Yes No target fishery, minimize bycatch
White skate (Rostroraja alba) N EN (Dulvy et al. 2006b) 4.5 Trawlers, netters & longliners Yes No retention
Undulate ray (Raja undulata) P EN (Coelho et al. 2009) 4.4 Trawlers, netters & longliners No landings No target fisheries
Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus)4 VU (Fowler 2005) 2.2 Enmeshing nets Yes No target fishery, TAC = 0
Porbeagle (Lamna nasus) W VU (Stevens et al. 2006) 2.0 Enmeshing nets & longliners Yes No fishery, zero catch
Tope (Galeorhinus galeus) W VU (Walker et al. 2006) 2.1 Bottom trawlers No Reduce catches 20%
3.0 Gill netters & longliners Yes – applies only to longline Reduce catches 20%
Nursehound (Scyliorhinus stellaris) P NT (Ellis et al. 2009a) 4.0 Trawlers, netters & longliners No Status Quo catch
Blonde skate (Raja brachyura) P NT (Ellis et al. 2009b) 3.7 Trawlers, netters & longliners No Reduce landings 20%
Small-eyed ray (Raja microocellata) P NT (Ellis 2006) 3.4 Trawlers, neters & longliners No Reduce landings 20%
Shagreen ray (Leucoraja fullonica) O NT (McCully and Walls 2015) 3.4 Trawlers, netters & longlners No Reduce landings 20%
Sharpnose skate (Dipturus oxyrinchus) A NT (Ellis et al. 2015) 4.5 Trawlers, netters & longliners No No target fishery, minimize bycatch
Thornback skate (Raja clavata) P NT (Ellis 2005) 3.7 Trawlers, netters & longliners No Increase landings 20%
Electric ray (Torpedo nobiliana) O DD (Notarbartolo di Sciara 2009) 4.5 Trawlers, netters & longliners No NA
Common smoothhound (Mustelus mustelus)5 P DD (Serena et al. 2009b) 2.9 Trawlers, netters & longliners No Reduce catch by 4%

(1) As reported in Report of the Working Group on Elasmobranch Fishes (WGEF) (ICES 2013a, 2014f); W = widespread throughout Northeast Atlantic; P = Present; O = occasional vagrants reported from the area, or distribution might extend to this division; N = no recent records, but occurred in area in the past; A = absent; U = uncertain; or otherwise as stated.
(2) IUCN categories: CR = critically endangered; EN = endangered; VU = vulnerable; NT = near threatened; DD = data deficient
(3) SICA = Scale, Intensity, and Consequence Analysis (Seafish 2014a); scores reflect impacts throughout the Southwest UK region(ICES Divisions VIIe,f,g, &h).
SICA scoring guide:

  • 0 = No consequence
  • 1 = Minimal consequence for unit
  • 2 = Moderate consequence for unit but probably not contravening operational objectives or goals
  • 3 = Significant consequence for unit; probably contravenes operational objectives reversibly and may contravene goals* second
  • 4 = Major consequence for unit; contravenes operational objectives, likely to contravene goals and require several years to repair
  • 5 = Effectively permanent, widespread loss of the unit and clearly incompatible with principle and goals

(4) Basking sharks are regularly reported in the English Channel by French national sighting programs (ICES 2014f).
(5) The IUCN considers Mustelus mustelusto be “vulnerable” on a global scale (Serena et al. 2009b). The species is less common in the Northeast Atlantic than starry smoothhoundMustelus asterias, which the IUCN considers a “least concern” species (Serena et al. 2009a).There are noted problems with separating the two species, and misidentification has contributed to confounded data.


Demersal elasmobranchs, particularly rays and skates, are especially vulnerable in bottom trawl fisheries of the Celtic Sea ecoregion, including the Western Channel (ICES 2008a); and landing and retention of many elasmobranchs is prohibited under European Council (EC) regulation (CEC 2015). Prohibition measures were introduced in the Celtic Sea Ecoregion for basking shark Cetorhinus maximus in 2007 (CEC 2006; ICES 2014f), common skate Dipturus batiscomplex, angel shark Squatina squatina, white skate Rostroraja alba, and undulate ray Raja undulata, in 2009 (CEC 2009; ICES 2014e), and porbeagle Lamna nasus in 2010 (CEC 2011; ICES 2014f). These measures prohibit variously by species fishing for, retaining on board, transshipping or landing in different portions of the ecoregion (CEC 2015).Patchy distribution of certain elasmobranchs can make them susceptible to localized over-exploitation (ICES 2008a); alternatively, even depleted species may be locally abundant and resilient to low levels of exploitation (ICES 2014f). ICES has not supported all of the EC’s prohibited listings, maintaining that minimal TACs may be more appropriate in some cases (see common skate and undulate ray examples). Quantitative data for many elasmobranch species is limited, and bycatch is often poorly documented (ICES 2014f).

Common skate is assessed as Critically Endangered globally on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Dulvy et al. 2006a). Recent genetic research (Iglésias et al. 2009) indicates that the species reported as Dipturus batis is actually comprised of two species of Dipturus (provisionally D. cf.flossada and D. cf. intermedia). The implications of these observations are that members of the D. batis species complex are even more depleted than formerly understood. Of the two, D. cf flossada appears to be the more abundant species in the Celtic Sea and Rockall Bank, while D. cf intermedia is indicated to occur primarily farther north (ICES 2014f).Presently, both European Union (EU) and third-country vessels are subject to EC prohibition for common skate in EU waters of ICES division IIa and ICES subareas III, IV, VI, VII, VIII, IX and X (CEC 2015).While ICES considers the D. batis complex in the Celtic Seas ecoregion to be depleted, it has noted the species’ prohibited listing to be without basis, and has alternatively advised protective management measures via a ‘0’ TAC (ICES 2014e).

Angel shark Squatina squatina is listed by the IUCN as “critically endangered” (Ferretti et al. 2015). ICES notes that localized populations of S. squatina persist in some parts of ICES Subarea VII (VIIa, VIIj, and potentially VIId) (ICES 2012b).However, there have been severe declines in areas where the species was formerly abundant (VIIa, VIIe, and VIIf), and observations are increasingly rare (ICES 2013a; ICES 2014f). The species is vulnerable to trawl, gillnet and longline gear (Seafish 2014a); and EC prohibitions are in effect for both Union and third-country vessels throughout EU waters (CEC 2015).

Endangered (as per IUCN) skates in the area include white or “bottlenose” skate Rostroraja alba (Dulvy et al. 2006b) and undulate ray Raja undulata (Coelho et al. 2009). Rostroraja alba is a prohibited species for both Union and third-country vessels fishing in the Union waters of ICES subareas VI-X (CEC 2015), as is R. undulata in ICES subareas VI and X, and in subarea IX for third-country vessels only.Rostroraja alba was removed from the prohibited species list for sub-area VII in 2014 (ICES 2014f); though it still cannot be retained or landed there (CEC 2015). ICES has noted that the prohibited listing for R. undulata lacks basis, and rather advises a precautionary approach to its management in the Celtic Seas (ICES 2014f). In terms of distribution, R. undulata is noted to have a stronger presence the English Channel (Divisions VIId and VIIe) (ICES 2014f), whereas the Celtic Sea is considered particularly important for other rare elasmobranch species (common skate D. batis, electric ray Torpedo nobiliana, and shagreen ray Leucoraja fullonica) (ICES 2008a).Meanwhile the occurrence of R. alba throughout ICES Subarea VII is less known, with consistent presence noted only in Division VIIb (West of Ireland) (ICES 2014f).

Tope Galeorhinus galeus, porbeagle Lamna nasus and basking shark Cetorhinus maximus, all classified as “vulnerable” globally on IUCN’s Red List (Fowler 2005; Walker et al. 2006; Stevens et al. 2006), are taken in the demersal fisheries of the Celtic Seas eco-region (ICES 2008a). The major fishing threat to G. galeus populations is considered to be from gillnet and longline fisheries (Walker et al. 2006), and prohibition measures for tope apply only to capture with longlines (CEC 2015). Meanwhile trawl fishing is considered a minor threat. Cetorhinus maximus is considered severely depleted in the Celtic Sea area (ICES 2008a) but is vulnerable primarily to enmeshing gear (gill and tangle nets) (Seafish 2014a; ICES 2014f). Prohibited listing for C. maximus applies to Union vessels in all waters, and third-country vessels in Union waters (CEC 2015). In the Southwest UK L. nasus is reportedly taken mainly by enmeshing nets (Seafish 2014a), but can also be taken in some trawl and set nets according to OSPAR (OSPAR 2010). EC regulation lists porbeagle as a prohibited catch species in all waters for both Union and third-country vessels (CEC 2015).

Spurdog Squalus acanthias is designated by the IUCN as “vulnerable” globally (Fordham et al. 2006a) and “Critically Endangered” in the Northeast Atlantic (Fordham et al. 2006b); however, the latter designation was based on analysis that has not been benchmarked by ICES, and the Working Group on Elasmobranch Species (WGEF) advises that a more recent analysis (De Oliveira et al. 2013) would support a less severe “Endangered” listing for the Northeast Atlantic population (ICES 2014f). Spurdogs are susceptible to a variety of fishing gears (Seafish 2014a), and the OSPAR commission has identified bycatch mortality in inshore fisheries employing trawls, static (gill or tangle) nets, and hook and line as the most significant threat to S. acanthias (OSPAR 2010).

ICES first provided advice for spurdog in 2006 (ICES 2006), which on the basis of the precautionary approach has consistently advised a ‘zero catch’ limit (ICES 2010b). For 2015 and 2016 ICES continues to advise that there should be no targeted fishery for spurdog, that catches in mixed fisheries be reduced to the lowest possible level, and that a rebuilding plan should be developed for this stock (ICES2014g). The EC likewise has prohibited landings since 2011 (CEC 2011) and applies a ‘zero’ TAC to Union and international waters of subareas I-VIII, XII and XIV for both Union and certain third-country vessels (CEC 2015). The prohibition of landing catches of spurdog by EU vessels has resulted in landings across all ICES subareas declining in recent years, though Sub-areas II–IV accounted for 70% of the total landings of spurdog in 2012 as spurdog is still subject to discards ban if caught in Norwegian waters and have to be landed (Pawson et al, 2014). Meanwhile, landings from the Celtic Seas area (Subareas VI and VII) have declined at a greater rate than those from Subareas II–IV (ICES 2013a).

Spurdog were shown to be very abundant among discarded elasmobranch species in a bycatch study conducted in ICES Divisions VIIf and VIIg (Bendall et al. 2012). While most of the elasmobranchs in these catches (using gillnet and hake net gear) were reportedly returned to sea alive, S. acanthias typically suffers higher discard mortality in trawl and gillnet fisheries relative to longline fisheries, in which discard mortality is generally low (ICES 2014g). Further, the current zero TAC results in higher discarding, and this discarding in mixed demersal trawl and gillnet fisheries operating in EC waters is unquantified.

Nursehound, or Greater-spotted dogfish Scyliorhinus stellaris is classified as IUCN ‘near-threatened’ (Ellis et al. 2009a), as are a number of additional skate species including the longnose skate Dipturus oxyrinchus (Ellis et al. 2015), thornback skate Raja clavata (Ellis 2005), blonde skate Raja brachyura (Ellis et al. 2009), and small-eyed ray Raja microocellata (Ellis 2006). Common smoothhound Mustelus mustelus and electric ray Torpedo nobiliana are data deficient (Serena et al. 2009b; Notarbartolo di Sciara et al. 2009). Raja clavata and R. microocellataare locally important commercial species in the Bristol Channel (Division VIIf) (ICES 2008a; ICES 2014f). Landings of S. stellaris are are underestimated in the Celtic Seas (ICES Areas VI, VIIa-c, e-j), due to lack of species-specific landings data for demersal sharks. Dipturus oxyrinchus and T. nobiliana have particularly high potential impact scores according to a recent ecological risk assessment (see next paragraph).

Impacts of the fishery on individual bycatch species are variable depending on a number of factors including discard survival, abundance, reproductive characteristics, and the extent of exposure (duration and intensity) to the fishery. For example, high discard survival may ameliorate impacts for some of the skate species, including D. batis and R. alba; though this effect varies by method of capture (ICES 2014c). Survival rates are not as favorable in offshore trawl and gillnet fisheries. Further, a number of species occur patchily in the Southwest UK vicinity due either to reduced numbers and/or range, or natural distribution patterns (Seafish 2014a). These include common skate, white skate, angel shark, electric ray, undulate ray and spurdog.Factors such as these were incorporated in a recent ecological risk assessment of the unique impacts of commercial fishing in Southwest England waters (Seafish 2014a).A Scale, Intensity, and Consequence (SICA) analysis was applied to derive relative impact scores for individual ecological components. We have reported these scores for species that appear in Table 1 above.

Cetacean bycatch is an acknowledged conservation threat in the Celtic Seas ecoregion (ICES 2008a); gillnets are the most implicated gear, followed by pelagic trawls and least of all demersal trawls (Ross and Isaac 2004; Seafish 2014b). According to bycatch estimates from fishery observing data, the vast majority of cetacean bycatch in ICES Divisions VIIe between 2012 and 2013 occurred in set gillnet and pelagic trawl fisheries. Nearly all of these animals were harbor porpoise Phoecena phoecena, and common dolphin Delphinus delphis, and a minor component were grey seal Halichoerus grypus,Risso’s dolphin Grampus griseus, and striped dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba (ICES 2013c; ICES 2014h; ICES 2015). Of the marine mammals considered in the Southwest UK ecological risk assessment, only bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncates and P. phoecena received scores higher than 3 (mitigated scores of 3.2 and 3 respectively), and for both the risk was attributed to entanglement in static nets (Seafish 2014a).

Bottom trawl gear is not highly implicated in seabird bycatch, though there is evidence that it can and does occur (ICES 2008b; ICES 2013b). Gillnets, meanwhile are considered more high risk to seabirds and significant bycatch events have been documented in the Southwest UK (ICES 2013b). Unfortunately these events are largely unquantified, as there is no dedicated monitoring of seabird bycatch in the UK.Monitoring of seabird bycatch in EU waters generally is noted as being insufficient, particularly for static gears (ICES 2013b; ICES 2015). Meanwhile, no bird species were assigned high-risk SICA scores in the Southwest UK ERA, and some were noted as benefitting from food availability resulting from discarding, as has been shown to occur in high discard fisheries (ICES 2008b; Seafish 2014a).

The bottom trawl gear used in this fishery can have significant impacts on benthic fauna.Among the potentially impacted species and habitats in the Southwest UK, the pink seafan Eunicella verrucosa , is listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN (WCMC 1996), and others are on OSPAR’s list of Threatened and/or declining Species and Habitats (Seafish 2014b). Impacts are addressed further in the ‘Habitat’ section.

Other Species

Last updated on 24 June 2015

The beam trawl fishery targeting sole and anglerfish takes plaice, and it is a target species of the demersal otter trawl mixed species fishery, which also catches haddock, whiting, cod, sole, hake, megrim, anglerfish, squid, elasmobranchs and others (ICES, 2008a). Of these, anglerfish and several elasmobranchs raise concerns as to their stock status in the region.

Discarding does occur in this fishery, including discarding of plaice below the regulated minimum landing size (MLS); though rates in the Western Channel (VIIe) are lower than for neighboring management areas (Eastern Channel – Division VIId and Celtic Sea – Divisions VIIf,g). Lack of overlap between the fishery and the limited nursery areas in Division VIIe are considered to be a limiting factor in this regard (ICES 2010a).

Beam trawl fisheries typically have the highest discard rates relative to other gear types; and past studies have estimated that beam trawl fisheries in divisions of ICES Subarea VII discard between 42%-67% of the total catch (EC 2011). In addition to undersized plaice, the main species discarded are other undersize target species, as well as non-target species possibly including dab, dogfish, gurnards, common cuttlefish and others. Based on data from the English fleet, discards (generally, across gears and species) in the Celtic Sea and Western Channel are primarily market driven (lack of market or inconsistent markets), and less a result of regulatory measures (minimum landing size and quotas) (DEFRA 2011).

HABITAT

Last updated on 24 June 2015

Plaice are taken as bycatch with beam trawl (55% of catches in 2011), and are also targeted with bottom otter trawl (40%). Just 2% of catches in 2011 were taken by gillnets, whose main habitat effects are ghost fishing by lost nets.

Effects of bottom trawling on the marine benthic community vary with habitat type, and impacts are more severe for complex substrates and communities (comprised of more fragile species generally occurring on harder surfaces such as gravel versus sandy substrate) (Shephard et al. 2010a). Reduced feeding success and growth rates of benthivorous fish are potential secondary effects of these impacts. In the Celtic Sea these effects have been observed for European plaice in gravel substrates (Shephard et al. 2010a) while effects are indicated in both gravel and sand for other species (Shepard et al. 2010b). Trawling in the Celtic Sea has been associated with declining length-weight ratios for lemon sole, megrim and cod. Findings from these studies imply that reduced prey availability imposed by trawling may lead to reduced carrying capacity, and these effects may compromise recovery of threatened stocks and ecosystems.

The recent ecological risk assessment of Southwest UK fisheries (Seafish 2014a) included review of potential trawl fishery impacts on habitats and community assemblages. High ratings for fish community categories (SICA scores = 4.5 and 4.0 on a 0-5 scale from lowest to highest impact, after adjustment for mitigating factors) reflected declining proportions of large fish and large fish species attributed to mortality in demersal fisheries. Such trends are considered a threat to the stability of fish communities; and increased selectivity and effort control were recommended to reduce mortality and mitigate these effects. Impacts on epibenthic assemblages and infaunal communities were also attributed to trawling (and dredging), with adjusted SICA scores ranging from 2.2-3.3 for different components. A variety of habitats and colonizing species are afforded local conservation concern through the UK Biodiversity Action plan, and some also are also on OSPAR’s(1) list of Threatened and/or Declining Species and Habitats (Seafish 2014b. The location of some benthic communities is well researched. However, there is a general need for full spatial assessment of the region in order to verify the occurrence of particular habitats and species, and to thoroughly assess impacts of different fishing activities (Seafish 2014b). For this reason assessment of individual habitats and colonizing species was not possible as part of the UK ERA; however, those considered particularly susceptible to fishery effects were identified, with potential impacts attributed to trawling and dredging. These included ross worm reefs Sabellaria spinulosa, horse mussel beds Modiolus modiolus, blue mussel beds Mytilus edulis, maerl Lithothamnion coralloides, pink sea fan Eunicella verrucosa, ocean quahog Arctica islandica, and fan mussel atrina fragilis.

(1)The Ospar commission is a multi-nation body charged with regulating protection of the Northeast Atlantic marine environment under the auspices of the OSPAR convention; see further detail here .

Marine Reserves

Last updated on 24 Jun 2015

No specific spatial or temporal closures of the fishery are known but the number of days at sea for beam trawlers using greater than 80mm mesh and static net fishing with mesh size less than 220 mm is to be limited, under the sole management plan (EC, 2012). In the UK in particular, an initiative, promoted by the Marine Management Organization, is in place to further reduce the number of days at sea of UK vessels operating in the Sole Recovery Zone (SRZ) (MMO, 2013). Such initiative also impacts the European plaice, as it is caught the mixed demersal fishery targeting sole.More broadly, EU member states may declare emergency closures of areas within their jurisdiction for a maximum period of 21 days in cases of serious threats to the conservation of a species or fishing grounds (CEC 2009).

Establishment of an ecologically coherent network of well-managed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Northeast Atlantic is a key objective of international agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the OSPAR Convention (JNCC 2015). Legislation created by both the EU and individual nations facilitates the coordinated effort required to achieve this objective.

Legislation outlined in the EU Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC was created to accomplish the EU’s obligations under the international Bern Convention treaty, which mandates for the conservation of wild flora and fauna (COE 2015). Under the directive, the EU wide Natura 2000 ecological network of protected areas was established to assure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats (EC 2015a). The network encompasses Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) designated under the Habitats directive, as well as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated under the 1979 Birds Directive, occurring in both marine and terrestrial environments (EC 2015b).

Meanwhile, the creation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in the territorial waters of England and Wales, as well as offshore UK waters, is provisioned for under the Marine Coastal Access Act of 2009. More recent legislation under the Marine (Scotland) Act (2010) outlines additional provisions for creating MPAs specifically in Scottish waters. These nationally designated protection zones contribute to the overall network of protected areas along with other types of MPA designations (most significantly, marine Natura 2000 sites).

There are roughly a dozen sites located within ICES Divisions VIIe, each designated one or more types of conservation status (e.g. MPAs, SACs, MCZs, and OSPAR sites). Some are small or limited to reef and estuary habitats that are less likely to overlap with demersal trawling; but they nonetheless serve as reserves for potentially impacted species such as E verrucosa, and others. Creation of new MPAs is ongoing. Click here to see Ministerial Orders for every MCZ; they are distributed through ICES Divisions IVb,c and VIIa,d,e,f,g,h. Click here for an interactive map of the different types of MPAs around UK.

EU
United Kingdom
Beam trawls

Last updated on 24 July 2012

Plaice are taken as bycatch with beam trawl (55% of catches in 2011), and are also targeted with bottom otter trawl (40%). Beam trawl has significant adverse impacts on benthic habitats and species, although less so over soft substrates and on previously trawled fishing grounds. Mitigations measures are being tested: both benthic drop-out panels and full square mesh codends. Additionally, several beam trawlers have been decommissioned in the UK (ICES, 2012).

FishSource Scores

MANAGEMENT QUALITY

As calculated for 2015 data.

The score is ≥ 6.

There are no specific management objectives for the stock, and TACs are still set jointly for ICES divisions VIId and VIIe. The stock has been maintained in a healthy state, but according to the new reference points that have been developed, the fishing mortality remains slightly above Fmsy (ICES 2014).

As calculated for 2015 data.

The score is ≥ 6.

Although a joint TAC is currently set for the Eastern and Western stocks, for which separate assessments are conducted, this has remained at or below the sum of ICES’ advised catch limits. Migration between stocks means there is still uncertainty as to how best to define management areas and/or measures.

As calculated for 2015 data.

The score is ≥ 8.

Total (Eastern and Western stock) 2013 landings were more than 10% below the joint TAC, and 2012 landings exceeded the joint TAC by less than 1%.

STOCK HEALTH:

As calculated for 2014 data.

The score is 10.0.

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

The SSB is 5.53 ('000 t). The MSY Btrigger is 1.65 ('000 t) .

The underlying SSB/MSY Btrigger for this index is 335%.

As calculated for 2013 data.

The score is 7.4.

This measures the F as a percentage of the Fmsy.

The F is 0.274 (age-averaged). The Fmsy is 0.240 .

The underlying F/Fmsy for this index is 114%.

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. No management plan is defined; due to the absence of a harvest control rule score #1 has been assigned a qualitative score.
  2. The catch of plaice in Division VIIe is managed by a TAC applied to Division VIId (Eastern English Channel) and VIIe combined; scores #2 and #3 had thus been assigned qualitative values.

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Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs)

No related FIPs

Certifications

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

No related MSC certifications

Sources

Credits

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References

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