Scientists proposes to close all cod fisheries south of Iceland except for the western Baltic stock

Published on October 23, 2006

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) released a report on October 20 on the status and perspectives of some of the most important Northeast Atlantic fish stocks.

The 22 international scientists of the Advisory Committee on Fishery Management (ACFM) analysed the status of commercial fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic. The experts came to the conclusion, that the overall status of the fish stocks has not changed much from 2005 to 2006. Sustainable exploitation can be stated for Norwegian Spring Spawning herring, and there are indications of recovery of the Northern hake stock. However, there are still numerous stocks that are too heavily fished and stocks that are depleted – notably cod stocks and sandeel in the North Sea.
Martin Pastoors, ACFM Chair commented: “It is good to see that prudent management can safeguard and rebuild the valuable resources in the sea. The Norwegian spring spawning herring stock is at a high level due to a rational exploitation strategy. Also the apparent recovery of the Northern hake stock is a positive signal. Unfortunately we have not seen clear signals of recovery for the depleted cod stocks. These stocks have a high growth potential, but the continued catches from these stocks in combination with very low recruitment have prevented a recovery. ”.

The numerous cod stocks in the Northeast Atlantic have shown diverging developments over the past years and ICES provides separate advice for each of them.

Major cod stocks in northern areas such as the Barents Sea and around Iceland are large and productive. The total catches of the northern stocks yield about 850.000 t per year (2005). In the more southern parts of the cod distribution area, a generally poor stock status prevails and fishing mortality is still high despite the lower catches. Although there are slight differences in the actual condition of those southern stocks, ICES is advising for all southern cod stocks (with the exception of cod in the western Baltic) that there should be no catch in 2007.

The experts reviewed the situation of several stocks of sharks and rays and concluded that many of the pelagic, demersal and deepwater sharks are in a depleted state and that no targeted fisheries should be allowed. These species often live up to a high age and can only sustain very low exploitation levels.