Fish stock exploitation has declined
Figure: Average fishing pressure (measured as fishing mortality) (left) and average stock biomass (right) for 85 major fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic, both scaled to the mean over the time period (1960-2013), ie. if the y-axis value is 1 in a given year then this year’s value is equal to the mean over the time series; if it is 0.5 it is half the mean value; etc.
ICES has concluded that exploitation of fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic has declined significantly during the last decade.
Many fish stocks have been harvested sustainably according to the targets set by policy-makers, and fish populations have started to improve. These include: cod around Iceland, in the Baltic Sea and the Barents Sea; plaice in the North Sea; herring in the Norwegian Sea, the Baltic Sea and the North Sea; and sprat in the Baltic Sea.
“Reduction in exploitation towards the long-term targets is the first step in rebuilding sustainable and stable fish populations and achieving a healthy ecosystem status”, explained ICES Head of Advisory Services Poul Degnbol.
However, exploitation of cod and haddock in the Faroe Islands region has remained high over the past several decades compared to a marked decrease in fishing pressure for the same species in other regions. Additionally, several populations, such as cod in the Irish Sea, the Kattegat and west of Scotland, remain low, with ICES advising that there should be no directed fisheries and minimal bycatch for these species. In contrast, populations such as Northeast Arctic cod and the widely distributed blue whiting continue to increase.
ICES says that the significant reductions in fishing pressure and the accompanying stock improvements are likely the result of several factors including reductions in Total Allowable Catches (TACs), changing market conditions, and increases in fuel prices.
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