Stock recovery makes significant progress

14 Jul 2015
Karmenu Vella is aiming to achieve MSY for all fish stocks before the 2020 deadline

Karmenu Vella is aiming to achieve MSY for all fish stocks before the 2020 deadline

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has delivered its overview of the status of a host of fish and shellfish stocks across the Northeast Atlantic.

Encompassing around 150 stocks, the general picture is of a reduction in the exploitation level in accordance with the advice provided by ICES and in line with management objectives for sustainable fisheries.

“Over the last ten to fifteen years, we have seen a general decline in fishing mortality in the Northeast Atlantic and the Baltic Sea,” explained Eskild Kirkegaard, Chair of ICES Advisory Committee. “The stocks have reacted positively to the reduced exploitation and we’re observing growing trends in stock sizes for most of the commercially important stocks.”

For the majority of stocks, it has been observed that fishing mortality has decreased to a level consistent with Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) – meaning levels that are not only sustainable but will also deliver high long term yields.

An example of this trend is reflected in the status of North Sea cod, where a downturn in fishing mortality and an upturn in Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) was noted. North Sea plaice, which is now at record high levels is a comparable example.

“The recovery of fish stocks in many EU waters has seen 'significant progress' over the past year, with a majority of stocks in the Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic on track for long-term sustainability”, said EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

The EU's fisheries policy aims to meet MSY for all fish stocks by 2020 at the latest, but Mr Vella has stressed that his aim is to 'beat that deadline', by building on new multiannual plans and by continuing to improve knowledge and assessments.

“We have until 2020 to get to MSY. Technically. But because MSY makes sense at so many levels – biologically, economically and for food supply – our aim should be to beat that deadline rather than meet it”, he said.

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