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).


ANALYSIS

Strengths

• Biomass is indicated to be increasing based on recent trends.
• Fishing mortality is indicated to be stable over the long term.
• Discards are included in the assessment.
• The quality and coverage of discard data has improved in recent years.
• Model generated spawning stock biomass, recruitment and fishing mortality trends are considered relevant despite areas of uncertainty.
• Quantitative stock assessment methods are expected to evolve and be validated over time.
• The set TAC is coincident with the stock area.
• Contrary to past years, landings misreporting is not an issue.
ICES quantitative advice is suited for data limited stocks.

Weaknesses

• Data is insufficient to allow reliable quantitative estimation of stock abundance, recruitment, fishing mortality and associated reference points; rather, scientific advice is based on qualitative assessment of trends. Stock assessment is particularly limited by lack of precise discard data over a suitable time series. Additional uncertainty is associated with survey indices and understanding of stock migration patterns.
• Biomass is indicated to be near historical low levels based on long-term trends and recruitment in recent years is also estimated to be low.
• Discards of plaice exceed landings and are increasing, and comprise a growing component of total fishing mortality (F).
•The TAC is frequently set in excess of ICES’ recommended catch.
• Catches slightly exceeded the TAC in 3 of 4 years between 2009-2014, and increased discarding is a likely contributing factor.
• In addition to plaice, many non-target and undersized target species are discarded in the fishery, particularly elasmobranchs, and including some conservation status species.
• Some bycatch is not well quantified.
• The trawl gear employed in this fishery has negative impacts on the benthic ecosystem and indirect effects on feeding success and growth rate of European plaice (and likely other species, though effects are variable), which is associated with reduced carrying capacity of the seabed.
• The allowable 80mm mesh size limit is ineffective at excluding undersize plaice.

FISHSOURCE SCORES

Management Quality:

Management Strategy:

≥ 6

Managers Compliance:

8.4

Fishers Compliance:

8.3

Stock Health:

Current
Health:

≥ 6

Future Health:

≥ 6


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
Celtic Sea EU United Kingdom Beam trawls
Single boat bottom otter trawls

Analysis

OVERVIEW

Last updated on 15 June 2015

Strengths

• Biomass is indicated to be increasing based on recent trends.
• Fishing mortality is indicated to be stable over the long term.
• Discards are included in the assessment.
• The quality and coverage of discard data has improved in recent years.
• Model generated spawning stock biomass, recruitment and fishing mortality trends are considered relevant despite areas of uncertainty.
• Quantitative stock assessment methods are expected to evolve and be validated over time.
• The set TAC is coincident with the stock area.
• Contrary to past years, landings misreporting is not an issue.
ICES quantitative advice is suited for data limited stocks.

Weaknesses

• Data is insufficient to allow reliable quantitative estimation of stock abundance, recruitment, fishing mortality and associated reference points; rather, scientific advice is based on qualitative assessment of trends. Stock assessment is particularly limited by lack of precise discard data over a suitable time series. Additional uncertainty is associated with survey indices and understanding of stock migration patterns.
• Biomass is indicated to be near historical low levels based on long-term trends and recruitment in recent years is also estimated to be low.
• Discards of plaice exceed landings and are increasing, and comprise a growing component of total fishing mortality (F).
•The TAC is frequently set in excess of ICES’ recommended catch.
• Catches slightly exceeded the TAC in 3 of 4 years between 2009-2014, and increased discarding is a likely contributing factor.
• In addition to plaice, many non-target and undersized target species are discarded in the fishery, particularly elasmobranchs, and including some conservation status species.
• Some bycatch is not well quantified.
• The trawl gear employed in this fishery has negative impacts on the benthic ecosystem and indirect effects on feeding success and growth rate of European plaice (and likely other species, though effects are variable), which is associated with reduced carrying capacity of the seabed.
• The allowable 80mm mesh size limit is ineffective at excluding undersize plaice.

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 29 March 2015

The degree to which the European plaice stock in the Celtic Sea is distinct from the stock found in the Irish Sea (ICES Division VIIa) is unclear (Annex 2 in ICES, 2014e).Mixing between stocks is considered minimal; however, recruitment data suggests a synchronous response to large-scale environmental drivers. Effects of stocks’ migration are not included in the assessment.

The stock is assessed via a trend model by Aarts and Poos (2009), with one survey index and two commercial indices (from United Kingdom) serving as inputs (ICES 2014e). Natural mortality and maturity estimates are taken from a 1997 survey (Pawson and Harley 1997, unpublished); the Review Group for the Celtic Seas Working Group has advised that the maturity data needs updating (Annex 4 in ICES 2014e). Fleet-wide estimates of total discards by age have been included in the assessment since 2010, however, the data series is only available for years 2004 onward (ICES 2014e). Given that discards are a major catch component (~76% in 2013), this information should improve stock assessment, and ultimately result in more reliable modeling options. Meanwhile however, biological reference points estimated in prior assessments are no longer valid, and the short time series during which discard data is available is only sufficient to allow for deriving relative trends. A more definitive model structure is expected to be developed as subsequent years of data are added.

SCIENTIFIC ADVICE

Last updated on 1 April 2015

Since 2012 , ICES has provided quantitative advice for Celtic Sea plaice based on their approach for data limited stocks (ICES 2013a). Harvest control rules derived from this method are intended to stabilize stock size over a 3-5 year period, with the caveat that they may be unsuitable if abundance is low or the stock is overfished.

Absolute stock size has not been estimated since 2011, as modeling exercises incorporating a recently developed higher quality series of discard data have indicated that this data is needed to ensure greater reliability of some biological reference point estimates (particularly for fishing mortality (F)). Meanwhile, the short time series that is available for the new discard dataset is sufficient only for estimating stock trends (ICES 2014e). The spawning stock biomass trend indicates a gradual increase over the short term (since 2004) with an uptick in 2013 from 2012.

For 2015, ICES advises only slight reduction in catches in 2014, with landings of no more than 420 tonnes.This is based on no changes in catches from the prior three year average, and presuming discard rates are unchanged. Given the decrease in fishing effort by the main fleets to the lowest recorded level, ICES notes no further precautionary reductions are needed. In order to promote the reduction of discards and total fishing mortality (F), and increase yield of the fishery (ICES, 2012), ICES annual advice consistently recommends the use of larger mesh gear.For 2015, they have also recommended spatial temporal measures to avoid small plaice.

Reference Points

Last updated on 01 Apr 2015

Former precautionary reference points (biological and fishing mortality) are no longer relevant, and until a longer time series of discard data is accumulated, only trends are estimable (ICES, 2012).

CURRENT STATUS

Last updated on 5 April 2015

Stock size and fishing pressure are not quantified. The spawning stock biomass (SSB) indicator has been above average over recent years, relative to the past two decades, but still at historic lows over the longer term.Fishing mortality (F), meanwhile, is indicated to be increasing after a period of relative stability.See next section for more detail on these trends.

Trends

Last updated on 05 Apr 2015

Spawning stock biomass indicator estimates for recent years are trending near historic low levels relative to values estimated for the period beginning in the late 1970s (ICES 2014e). Over the short term (since 2004), a gradual increase in SSB is indicated, with a sharper uptick from 2012 to 2013 (ICES 2014a). Since 2008, SSB is indicated to have been maintained at a level above the 20-year average.

In past years, ICES has indicated that fishing mortality (F) is above a level that would restore SSB to historic levels or achieve high long term yields (ICES 2012).ICES did not reiterate this concern in their most recent advice summary (ICES 2014a), and rather emphasized the uncertainty associated with recent estimates of F, which indicate a sharp increase during years 2012-2013.Regardless, there is concern over the growing proportion of total fishing mortality that is attributable to discards(ICES 2013a, 2014e). Landings since 2004 have been relatively stable, while discards have increased from roughly 1/3 of the total catch in 2005, to greater than 2/3 of the total catch on average between 2011 and 2013 (ICES 2014a). Meanwhile, recruitment is indicated to be at a very low level, and ICES notes that reducing discards in this fishery would increase yields.

2.MANAGEMENT QUALITY

MANAGEMENT

Last updated on 5 April 2015

The fishery has been regulated by Total Allowable Catches (TACs) since at least 1987 (ICES 2014a). The TAC for 2015 is set at 461 tonnes (EC No. 2015/104), which is the same as for 2014, but slightly higher than ICES’ advised landings for 2015 (ICES 2014a). The set TAC frequently exceeds the advised catch limit,particularly since 2004 when recovery plans were first recommended.

Several technical measures are in place such as mesh size restrictions, minimum landing size (MLS) of 27cm and spatial closures for some types of vessels (ICES 2014a). However, management of plaice is closely linked with sole; and when sole is the primary target species, beam-trawlers are permitted to use 80 mm cod-end mesh size, which while optimal for selecting legal size sole, is not effective at avoiding plaice below the MLS (Seafish 2014b). ICES (2014a) advises that increasing the mesh size of the gear will result in fewer discards and increased yield from the fishery.However, there is resistance to this advice (NWWRAC 2011), due the reduced harvest of commercially important species (mainly sole) that would likely result (Seafish 2014b). The redistribution of effort from the cod recovery zone implemented in 2005 may have relieved fishing mortality on Celtic Sea plaice in spawning areas, though these effects are unmeasured.

According to a recent Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA), management under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), restrictions on beam length in trawl fisheries, and seasonal closures to protect spawning cod are considered to be factors that ameliorate the impact of the fishery (Seafish 2014a); however, these benefits are offset to some extent by the high level of discarding. The ERA 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 score prior to adjusting based on mitigating factors was a ‘4.0’.

Recovery Plans

Last updated on 05 Apr 2015

There is no recovery plan in place.

COMPLIANCE

Last updated on 30 March 2015

Fishers’ compliance has been high in the past; between 1987 and 2008, the TAC was was exceeded in only 4 years (ICES 2014a). However, it was exceeded 4 times during 2009 to 2013, and in 2012 catches were over by a margin of 19%.Discarded fish are representing a growing proportion of the total catch, reaching 76%in 2013. The high level of discarding reflects the use of mesh size that is designed to optimally harvest sole, while doing little to conserve undersize plaice(Seafish 2014b). Misreporting is not highlighted as a problem currently, though there is little information on the level of misreported landings (ICES 2014e).

3.ENVIRONMENT AND BIODIVERSITY

BYCATCH
ETP Species

Last updated on 11 May 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 Bristol Channel and Celtic Sea North (ICES Divisions VIIf and VIIG).

Species Occurence in Division1 IUCN Status2 SICA Score3 SICA assessed gear EC prohibited in Subarea VII? ICES Advice
VIIf VIIg
Angel shark (Squatina squatina) P P CR (Ferretti et al. 2015) 4.5 Trawlers, netters & longliners Yes No target fishery, minimize bycatch
Common skate (Dipturus batis complex) P P CR (Dulvy et al. 2006a) 4.5 Trawlers, netters & longliners Yes No target fishery, minimize bycatch
Common skate – blue (D. cf. flossada) O P CR Yes
Common skate – flapper ( D. cf. intermedia) U O CR Yes
Spurdog (Squalus acanthias) W W CR (Fordham et al. 2006b) 3.4 Trawlers, netters & longliners Yes No target fishery, minimize bycatch
White skate (Rostroraja alba) U U EN (Dulvy et al. 2006b) 4.5 Trawlers, netters & longliners Yes No retention
Undulate ray (Raja undulata) O O EN (Coelho et al. 2009) 4.4 Trawlers, netters & longliners No landings NA for Divisions VIIf,g
Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus)4 VU (Fowler 2005) 2.2 Enmeshing nets Yes No target fishery, TAC = 0
Porbeagle (Lamna nasus) W W VU (Stevens et al. 2006) 2.0 Enmeshing nets & longliners Yes No fishery, zero catch
Tope (Galeorhinus galeus) W 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 P NT (Ellis et al. 2009a) 4.0 Trawlers, netters & longliners No Status Quo catch
Blonde skate (Raja brachyura) P P NT (Ellis et al. 2009) 3.7 Trawlers, netters & longliners No Reduce landings 20%
Small-eyed ray (Raja microocellata) P P NT (Ellis 2006) 3.4 Trawlers, neters & longliners No Reduce landings 36%
Shagreen ray (Leucoraja fullonica) O P NT (McCully and Walls 2015) 3.4 Trawlers, netters & longlners No Reduce landings 20%
Sharpnose skate (Dipturus oxyrinchus) A O NT (Ellis et al. 2015) 4.5 Trawlers, netters & longliners No No target fishery, minimize bycatch
Thornback skate (Raja clavata) P P NT (Ellis 2005) 3.7 Trawlers, netters & longliners No Increase landings 20%
Electric ray (Torpedo nobiliana) O O DD (Notarbartolo di Sciara et al. 2009) 4.5 Trawlers, netters & longliners No NA
Common smoothhound (Mustelus mustelus)5 W W 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 2013c, 2014f); W = widespread throughout Celtic Sea region; P = Present; O = occasional vagrants reported from the area, or distribution might extend to this division; A = absent; U = uncertain
(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 shark are reportedly seen throughout the Celtic Sea, but appear to be severely depleted (ICES 2008a). However, current population status is unknown (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 (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). The species is considered to be present throughout much of ICES Subarea VII, including Divisions VIIf and VIIg (ICES 2013c). However, while formerly abundant in the Bristol Channel (Division VIIf), S. squatina is now rarely observed there (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). However, trawling is not the most implicated gear for these species. 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 2010). 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 (ICES2014c). 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 2013c).

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 2014c). 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 2014b). 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.

While cetacean bycatch is an acknowledged conservation threat in the Celtic Seas ecoregion (ICES 2008a), the impact on marine mammals by bottom trawls is a lesser concern than that attributed to pelagic trawls and especially to gillnet fisheries (Ross and Isaac 2004; Seafish 2014b) According to bycatch estimates from fishery observing data, the vast majority of cetacean bycatch in ICES Divisions VIIf and VIIg between 2011 and 2013 occurred in set gillnet fisheries. Nearly all of these animals were harbor porpoise Phoecena phoecena, and a minor component were common dolphin Delphinus delphis and grey seal Halichoerus grypus (ICES 2013b; ICES 2014d; 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, and for both the risk was attributed to entanglement in static nets (Seafish 2014a).

Bottom trawl gear is also not highly implicated in seabird bycatch, though there is evidence that it can and does occur (ICES 2008b; ICES 2013d). There appears to have been no seabird bycatch whatsoever reported by observers in ICES Division VII between 2011 and 2013; however monitoring of seabird bycatch in EU waters is noted as being insufficient, particularly for static gears (ICES 2013d; ICES 2015). 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 11 May 2015

Plaice in ICES Divisions VIIf and VIIg are primarily targeted along with sole in beam trawl fisheries; and also in mixed demersal trawl fisheries (beam and otter) that exploit haddock, whiting, cod, megrim, anglerfish, squid, elasmobranchs and other species (ICES 2008a). 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). The main species discarded are 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 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 13 June 2015

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 13 Jun 2015

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 VIIf and VIIg, 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.

In addition to permanently protected areas, there are some temporally or conditionally implemented conservation measures.Locally, in an area of the Celtic Sea known as the “Trevose Box” (ICES rectangles 30E4, 31E4, and 32E3), seasonal closures to protect spawning cod have been enforced since 2005 (ICES 2014a). While no closures are designated specifically for European plaice, the Trevose Box closure has had a general effect of redistributing fishing effort, particularly for beam trawls (ICES 2014e). This may have reduced fishing mortality on other Celtic Sea species such as sole and plaice, but this effect is unmeasured (ICES 2014a,b). More broadly, Council Regulation 1954/2003 (CEC 2003) established measures for the management of fishing effort in a “biologically sensitive area” in Divisions VIIb, VIIj, VIIg, and VIIh. Effort exerted within the “biologically sensitive area” by the vessels of each EU Member Country may not exceed their average annual effort (calculated over the period 1998–2002). Finally, 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).

FishSource Scores

SELECT SCORES

MANAGEMENT QUALITY

As calculated for 2015 data.

The score is ≥ 6.

This is a data-limited stock with no specific management objectives (ICES 2014a). ICES' quantitative methods for data-limited stocks are intended to stabilize stock size over a period of 3-5 years, with the caveat that resulting harvest control rules may not be suitable if stock abundance is low and/or the stock is overfished. Based on indicator trends, both fishing mortality and spawning stock biomass (SSB) have been stable since at least 2008. For 2015, ICES further notes that because effort of the main fleets has decreased to its lowest recorded level, there is not need for an additional precautionary reduction at this time.

As calculated for 2015 data.

The score is 8.4.

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

The Set TAC is 0.461 ('000 t). The Advised TAC is 0.420 ('000 t) .

The underlying Set TAC/Advised TAC for this index is 110%.

As calculated for 2013 data.

The score is 8.3.

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

The Catch is 0.410 ('000 t). The Set TAC is 0.370 ('000 t) .

The underlying Catch/Set TAC for this index is 111%.

STOCK HEALTH:

As calculated for 2015 data.

The score is ≥ 6.

No biological reference points are set and both stock size and fishing mortality are uncertain (ICES 2014a). However stock status is evaluated based on indicator trends. The 2014 assessment shows recruitment to be at a very low level, while SSB has been gradually increasing since 2004, and since 2008 has been maintained at a level above the 20-year average. Nonetheless, SSB estimates for recent years are still near historic low levels relative to values estimated for the period beginning in the late 1970s (ICES 2014e).

As calculated for 2015 data.

The score is ≥ 6.

The outlook for the stock cannot be reliably assessed due to uncertainty in estimates of fishing mortality and SSB (ICES 2014a). In past years, ICES has indicated that fishing mortality is above a level that would restore SSB to historic levels or achieve high long term yields (ICES 2012). ICES did not echo this point in their most recent advice summary (ICES 2014a), and rather emphasized the uncertainty associated with a perceived spike in recent fishing mortality. Regardless, there is concern that discards are an increasing component of total fishing mortality (ICES 2013a, 2014e). Meanwhile, recruitment is indicated to be at a very low level, and ICES notes that reducing discards in this fishery would increase yields (ICES 2014a).

No data available for biomass
No data available for biomass
To see data for catch and tac, please view this site on a desktop.
No data available for fishing mortality
No data available for fishing mortality
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 2015, trends assessment is only indicative due to uncertain and limited data; ICES quantitative advice is suited for data limited stocks (ICES, 2014a).
  2. Fishing mortality and biological reference points are not defined (ICES, 2014a) thus scores #1, #4 and #5 were determined qualitatively.
  3. Set TAC is for ICES areas VIIf,g (EC No. 2015/104).

Download Source Data

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Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs)

No related FIPs

Certifications

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

No related MSC certifications

Sources

Credits

Aarts, G. and Poos, J J. 2009. Comprehensive discard reconstruction and abundance estimation using flexible selectivity functions. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 66: 763–771. http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/content/66/4/763.full.pdf+html

Bendall, V. A., Hetherington, S. J., Ellis, J. R., Smith, S. F., Ives, M. J., Gregson, J. and Riley, A. A. 2012. Spurdog, porbeagle and common skate bycatch and discard reduction. Fisheries Science Partnership 2011–2012, Final Report. 88 pp. http://www.cefas.defra.gov.uk/media/577769/mf047_fsp_report_2012_final_vb.pdf

CEC (European Commission), 2003. Council Regulation (EC) No 1954/2003 of 4th November 2003 on the management of the fishing effort relating to certain Community fishing areas and resources. http://faolex.fao.org/docs/pdf/eur40286.pdf

CEC (European Commission), 2006. Council Regulation (EC) No 41/2006 of 21 December 2006 fixing for 2007 the fishing opportunities and associated conditions for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in Community waters and, for Community vessels, in waters where catch limitations are required. Official Journal of the European Union L 15; 213 pp. http://faolex.fao.org/docs/pdf/eur68838.pdf

CEC (European Commission), 2009. Council Regulation (EC) No 43/2009 of 16 January 2009 fixing for 2009 the fishing opportunities and associated conditions for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in Community waters and, for Community vessels, in waters where catch limitations are required. Official Journal of the European Union L 22; 205 pp. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:022:0001:0205:EN:PDF

CEC (European Commission), 2011. Council Regulation (EU) 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. Offficial Journal of the European Union L 24; 125 pp. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:024:0001:0125:EN:PDF

CEC (European Commission), 2015. Council Regulation (EC) No 2015/104 of 19 January 2015, fixing for 2015 the fishing opportunities and associated conditions for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, applicable in Union waters and, for Union vessels, in certain non-Union waters, amending Regulation (EU) No 43/2014 and repealing Regulation (EU) No 779/2014. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32015R0104&from=EN

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Coelho, R., Bertozzi, M.,Ungaro. N. & Ellis, J. 2009. Raja undulata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/161425/0

De Oliveira, J. A. A., Ellis, J. R., and Dobby, H. 2013. Incorporating density dependence in pup production in a stock assessment of NE Atlantic spurdog Squalus acanthias. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 70: 1341–1353. http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/08/12/icesjms.fst080.full

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EC No. 43/2012. Council Regulation (EU) No 43/2012 of 17 January 2012 fixing for 2012 the fishing opportunities available to EU vessels for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks which are not subject to international negotiations or agreementshttp://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2012:025:0001:0054:EN:PDF

European Commission (EC), 2011. Studies in the Field of the Common Fisheries Policy and Maritime Affairs, Lot 4: Impact Assessment Studies related to the CFP, Impact Assessment of Discard Reducing Policies, EU Discard Annex, 65 p.http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/documentation/studies/discards/annex_en.pdf

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Ellis, J. 2006. Raja microocellata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/39400/0

Ellis, J., Ungaro, N., Serena, F., Dulvy, N.K., Tinti, F., Bertozzi, M., Pasolini, P., Mancusi, C. & Noarbartolo di Sciara, G. 2009. Raja brachyura. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/161691/0

Ellis, J., Abella, A., Serena, F., Stehmann, M.F.W. & Walls, R. 2015. Dipturus oxyrinchus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/63100/0

Enever, R., Reveill, A.S. and Grant, A., 2007. Discarding in the English Channel, Western approaches, Celtic and Irish seas (ICES subarea VII). Fisheries Research 86:143-152. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165783607001191

Ferretti, F., Morey, G, Serena, F., Mancusi, C., Fowler, S.L., Dipper, F. & Ellis, J. 2015. Squatina squatina. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.1. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/39332/0

Fordham, S., Fowler, S.L., Coelho, R., Goldman, K.J. & Francis, M. 2006a. Squalus acanthias. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/39326/0

Fordham, S., Fowler, S.L., Coelho, R., Goldman, K.J. & Francis, M. 2006b. Squalus acanthias (Northeast Atlantic subpopulation). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2.

Fowler, S.L. 2005. Cetorhinus maximus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/4292/0

Hoarau, G., Rijnsdorp, A.D., Van der Veer, H.W., Stam, W.T., Olsen, J.L. 2002. Population structure of plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.) in northern Europe: microsatellites revealed large-scale spatial and temporal homogeneity. Mol Ecol. 11(7):1165-76 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12074724

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ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), 2006. Report of the ICES Advisory Committee 2006, Book 9: Widely Distributed and Migratory Stocks. 9.4.6: Northeast Atlantic Spurdog. http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2006/oct/nea%20spurdog.pdf

ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), 2008a. Report of the ICES Advisory Committee 2008, Book 5 Celtic Sea and West of Scotland. http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/ICES%20Advice/2008/ICES%20ADVICE%202008%20Book%205.pdf

ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), 2008b. Report of the Working Group on Seabird Ecology (WGSE), 10–14 March 2008 Lisbon, Portugal. ICES CM 2008/LRC:05. 99 pp. http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Expert%20Group%20Report/lrc/2008/WGSE/WGSE2008.pdf

ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), 2010. Report of the ICES Advisory Committee 2010, Book 9: Widely Distributed and Migratory Stocks. 9.4.6: Spurdog (Squalus acanthias) in the Northeast Atlantic.
http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2010/2010/Spurdog.pdf

ICES, 2011a. Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, Book 5: The Celtic Sea and West of Scotland 5.4.8 Ecoregion: Celtic Sea and West of Scotland. Stock: Plaice in Divisions VIIf,g (Celtic Sea). Advice summary for 2012, 7 pp.http://www.ices.dk/committe/acom/comwork/report/2012/2012/ple-celt.pdf

ICES, 2011b. Report of the Working Group for Celtic Seas Ecoregion (WGCSE), 11 - 19 May 2011, Copenhagen, Denmark. ICES CM 2011/ACOM:12. 1572 pp.http://www.ices.dk/reports/ACOM/2011/WGCSE/WGCSE2011.pdf

ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), 2012. Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2012. Book 5: Celtic Sea and West of Scotland. 5.4.8: Plaice in Divisions VIIf,g (Celtic Sea).
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ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), 2013b. Report of the Workshop on Bycatch of Cetaceans and other Protected Species (WKBYC), 20–22 March 2013, Copenhagen, Denmark. ICES CM 2013/ACOM:36. 55 pp.
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ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), 2013c. Report of the Working Group on Elasmobranch Fishes (WGEF), 17–21 June 2013 Lisbon, Portugal. ICES CM 2014/ACOM:12, 2,034 pp. http://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00166/27693/25886.pdf

ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), 2013d. ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), 2013b. Report of the Workshop to Review and Advise on Seabird Bycatch (WKBYCS), 14–18 October 2013 Copenhagen, Denmark. ICES CM 2013/ACOM:77. 79 pp. http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Expert%20Group%20Report/acom/2013/WKBYCS/wkbycs_final_2013.pdf

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ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), 2014d. Report of the Workshop on Bycatch of Cetaceans and other Protected Species (WKBYC), 4-7 February, Copenhagen, Denmark. ICES CM 2014/ACOM:28. 96 pp. http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Expert%20Group%20Report/acom/2014/WGBYC/wgbyc_2014.pdf

ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), 2014e. Report of the Working Group for Celtic Seas Ecoregion (WGCSE), 13-22 May 2014, Copenhagen, Denmark. ICES CM 2014/ACOM:12, 2,034 pp.
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