ICES has provided advised catch limits for the stock in spite of the lack of an assessment, using an approach for data-limited stocks. Fishers’ compliance improved and landings are below the advised TAC. Set TAC is below ICES advice. Technical measures and closure areas are established to diminish bycatch of cod and contribute to the North Sea stock recovery. Abundance estimates improved in consequence of Under Water TV (UWTV) survey enhancements. A Long Term Management Plan is being developed. PET species are not impacted by the fishery and the habitat structure and function is not undermined. To support the Cod Recovery Plan, real-time closure areas, amber areas and seasonal closures (for spawning) are established.
No information is available on stock size or fishing mortality and no reference points are defined. TACs are set at the subunit level rather than at the functional unit level, which may place the stock at risk of excessive effort and result in low stock levels. Bycatch is 23% of catches in weight.
Management measures should be set at Functional Unit level. Further collection of information is needed to allow reference points to be developed, supporting the introduction of a management strategy. The stock would benefit from a long term-management plan. Bycatch of whiting, haddock and juvenile cod should be minimized, through measures such as those introduced under the Scottish Conservation Credits scheme, whose effectiveness is being determined.
Last updated on 28 July 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.
No analytical stock assessment was conducted for the Botney Gut – Silver Pit stock (FU 5) in lack of underwater TV (UWTV) surveys to estimate abundance. Landings per Unit Effort (LPUE) per country should be analyzed cautiously (ICES, 2012a).
The first time of quantitative ICES approach to advice for data-limited stocks is based on the past ten years landings time-series and a range of possible landings options taking into account known surface area of Nephrops habitat and assumed densities of the Functional Unit (FU); further developments are expected. For Botney Gut – Silver Pit (FU 5), ICES advises landings at 1,000 tons for 2013 and 2014, considering a potential harvest rate of 3.8% and a density estimate of 0.7 Nephrops/m2, which is considered to be precautionary. Discards and bycatch are also included in the assessment. For all FU ICES advises 18,120 tons in the North Sea. ICES also considers crucial the management at the FU level (ICES, 2012a).
No reference points are defined (ICES, 2012a).
The stock status is not known since abundance indices and fishing mortality rates are not available. For FU 5, provisional total landings for 2011 are at 1,053 tons (ICES, 2012a).
Landings per Unit Effort (LPUE) are considered to fluctuate without trend (ICES, 2012a). Abundance estimates are not available.
No specific objectives are known or agreed for the fishery. A minimum landing size of 25mm of the carapace length is defined (ICES, 2012a). A Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is set for the European Union waters of IIa (Norwegian Sea) and IV (North Sea): for 2013 is at 17,350 tons (Proposal for Council Regulation 2012/0292) which is below previous TAC and for the first-time below the ICES advice for all FU in the North Sea.
Landings are regularly monitored by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science CEFAS (Fisheries Research Services, FRS) and the Department of Fisheries, Rural Development and Agriculture (DEFRA); and also by onboard observers with the main goal to reduce bycatch, especially of cod. Fishing location and activity and retained species need to be reported in logbooks. To support the Cod Recovery Plan, real-time closure areas, amber areas and seasonal closures (for spawning) are established; a minimum mesh size of either 80 mm (stretched mesh) cod end or a 110 mm cod end plus a 110 mm mesh square-mesh panel in the sleeve or extension piece are required (Moody Marine, 2010).
Furthermore, a Long Term Management Plan (LTMP) for North Sea Nephrops is being discussed and developed (2011 Draft Version; Moody Marine, 2010).
Fishers’ compliance improved – in 2011 the catch level for all FU was below both set and advised TAC. Bycatch is at 23% in number and can be higher due to mesh size of 80mm but measures are in place to reduce it (ICES, 2012a). Bycatch quantified is believed to be greater than the officially reported and landed (Moody Marine, 2010).
The movement of effort between FU is not controlled (ICES, 2012a). “Buyers and sellers” regulations, established by the United Kingdom (UK) government since 2005, contributed to landings accuracy. Additional days at sea can be given to vessels under the “Scottish Conservation Credits” that agree with technical measures (e.g. selective gears), real-time closures and amber areas to reduce cod bycatch and discards (Moody Marine, 2010).
The Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group (SFSAG) submitted the Nephrops fishery to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) process certification in 2007. MSC Conditions were defined in 2010 (Public Comment Draft Report) but meanwhile the fishery was withdrawn of the process due to management issues – TAC defined for the North Sea instead at the FU level (SFSAG, undated).
Of all Protected, Endangered and Threatened (PET) species encountered in the North Sea four can rarely interact with the Nephrops fishery: Common skate Dipturus batis, Spotted ray Raya montagui, Atlantic cod Gadus morhua (all listed in the OSPAR List of Threatened and/or Declining Species) and Atlantic spurdog Squalus acanthias (Critically Endangered; 2006 IUCN Redlist). Common skate is considered to be depleted and Spotted ray population is maintained or increased since 1980. Cetaceans or pinnipeds rarely interact and capture of this species needs to be reported under the Seafish Responsible Fisheries Scheme. The fishery is not considered to be a risk for any of the PET species (Moody Marine, 2010).
Bycatch and discards comprise cod, haddock and whiting but also plaice, lemon sole and rays (Moody Marine, 2010; ICES, 2012a), and can be of high proportion due to the 80mm of mesh size mainly used.
In Farn Deeps, discards are composed of (proportion in weight): cod (6%), Dab Limanda limanda (13%), haddock and Nephrops (each 5%) (Moody Marine, 2010); mortality of Nephrops can attain 75% (ICES, 2012a). Further mitigation measures should be implemented to minimize bycatch of cod and whiting to not compromise both stocks recovery. Several experiments (e.g. Dunlin and Reese, 2003; Kynoch et al, 2007; Catchpole and Revill, 2008) have been done to reduce discarding of this fishery (Moody Marine, 2010).
Scottish inshore areas are closed to mobile gears, with the aim to protect nursery zones and reduce gear conflicts. Besides, to support the Cod Recovery Plan and under the “Scottish Conservation Credits”, when more than 40 all-sized cods are captured per hour a real-time closure area is defined for 21 days. Amber areas are set if, for more than three months, cod aggregations are localized. Seasonal closures – Long Hole (December 2008 – at least Jun 2009), Papa Bank (15 Jan – 15 Mar), Stanhope Ground (21 Feb – 30 Apr) and Coral Edge (15 Jan – 28 Feb) – aim to protect cod spawning areas (Moody Marine, 2010). To protect habitats, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) under Natura 2000, Marine Conservation Zones (MSC) included in the National Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and OSPAR MPAs are established or being implemented (Moody Marine, 2010; ICES, 2012a).