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Fishing fleet pressure

Indicator Specification Created 04 Nov 2014 Published 03 Mar 2015 Last modified 08 Apr 2015, 05:15 PM
Contents
 

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Justification for indicator selection

Fishing is one of the main pressures affecting marine ecosystems. Even though fishing only targets those species and size-classes that are of commercial value, the extraction of fish and shellfish also affects the wider ecosystem beyond what is targeted. It does so through different mechanisms, involving direct (i.e. mortality of target species and consequent alterations to the state of fish stocks; by-catch of non-target species and discards of unwanted catch; physical damage to seafloor habitats) and indirect effects (by altering ecosystem processes and functions such as species interactions in food-webs). 

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) identified a comprehensive list of pressures through which human activities affect the marine ecosystem, thereby compromising the achievement of Good Environmental Status. Fishing is the human activity mainly responsible for at least two of these pressures, i.e. “Biological disturbance: selective extraction of species, including non-target species” and “Physical damage: abrasion” (MSFD Annex III). While the aim of this indicator is to ultimately identify and calculate appropriate metrics for these two fishing-induced pressures, the current analysis presents two metrics that describe the activity in terms of its capacity and the effort exerted on the marine ecosystem. These two metrics can be calculated for all European marine waters with the data currently available. However, they should be considered crude proxies for fishing pressure (and associated impact) the this indicator ultimately strives to capture.

Fishing capacity, often expressed in units of tonnage, engine power and sometimes number of vessels, is known to drive fishing effort. This, in turn, is one of the key factors that determine fishing mortality (i.e. biological disturbance on target species) and seafloor disturbance (i.e. physical damage to the seafloor), which are considered the main pressures exerted by fishing fleets. However, there is no direct relationship between capacity and effort as, for example (1) a large fleet of inactive vessels may simply lease out their quota, (2) vessels may only be operated part-time, (3) vessels are active in different regions or fisheries, or (4) effort might be limited through regulations. Therefore, there is no straightforward relationship between fishing capacity and the pressure exerted on the ecosystem. In addition, the size of the vessels also matters. Larger vessels generally have a larger fishing pressure than smaller vessels, namely because of the type of gear they use and their level of activity, as well as the geographical coverage that these vessels can reach.

The link between fishing effort and actual pressure (i.e. fishing mortality and seafloor disturbance) is more straightforward but not directly correlated as one unit of effort may differ in terms of fishing-induced mortality or amount of seafloor disturbed (i.e. between fishing métiers). These parameters may even change over time, e.g. due to technological creep. Promising work using Vessel Monitoring Data is currently under development to produce fishing intensity maps. In the near future, these should allow for fishing effort to be better linked to actual pressure on the seabed, and in turn to fishing impact when combined with species and habitats vulnerability maps (see ICES, 2014).

Thus, in simple terms, excess capacity may result in higher levels of fishing effort, which may lead to overfishing and increased environmental impact, undermining the principle of sustainable use of marine resources. Managing fishing fleet capacity and effort in accordance with the state of fish stocks and of the marine ecosystem is thus an important factor in reaching a sustainable use of the marine environment.

Scientific references:

Indicator definition

This indicator shows the following per European marine region:

  • Fishing capacity by fishing métier (i.e categories of fishing techniques/gears), distinguishing between large and small vessels and its relative trends; and
  • Fishing effort (i.e. the amount of time spent fishing at sea) by fishing métier of large and small vessels.

Units

Capacity is defined in terms of size and numbers of vessels.

Fishing effort is expressed as kilowatt days-at-sea.

Policy context and targets

Context description

EU fisheries are regulated by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The CFP was first implemented in 1983 to ensure the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources. It brought the management of fisheries by EU Member States under one system, while defining a common approach to the organisation of the domestic markets in fish and fish products and the structural development of national fishing fleets. Since then, it has evolved incrementally, undergoing reforms every ten years. Nevertheless, the CFP kept falling short on delivering its policy objectives. By the time the 3rd reform process was initiated, in 2009, there was a broad acknowledgment of the key CFP structural failings (EC, 2009). This led to a major revision bringing forth a new policy that came into force in January 2014.

The core objective of the new CFP is “to ensure that fishing and aquaculture activities are environmentally sustainable in the long-term and are managed in a way that is consistent with the objectives of achieving economic, social and employment benefits, and of contributing to the availability of food supplies". This means ensuring two key environmental objectives, one applying to fish stocks and the other to the ecosystem impact of fisheries.

The first of these objectives is that the populations of fish stocks be progressively restored and maintained above biomass levels that can produce the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), while applying the precautionary approach. This sustainable biomass objective has been further translated into a management target, which is to ensure all fish stocks are exploited (i.e. the level of fishing pressure) at MSY rates by 2015, where possible, and by 2020 at the latest.

The second objective is to implement the ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management. This requires a fundamental shift in the priorities of fisheries management and the knowledge underpinning it, where the aim is no longer to maximise the catch of single fish stocks but to minimise the impacts of fishing activities (including aquaculture) on the marine ecosystem.

The new CFP (2014) comes into a new environmental policy context with the entry into force of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) in 2008 (EC, 2008). By adopting the ecosystem approach, the main MSFD objective is to reach or maintain Good Environmental Status (GES) of EU seas by 2020. The state of commercial fish stocks and the pressure and impacts of fisheries in the wider ecosystem (Descriptors 1, 3, 4 and 6) are recognised as key components of GES. In particular for fish stocks, GES is further described (Descriptor 3) as a level of exploitation that is at or below MSY, a reproductive capacity kept intact (meaning equal or greater than MSY), and a population age and size distribution indicative of a healthy stock. The MSFD objective of reaching GES by 2020 is thus intimately linked with the CFP objectives and coherence needs to be ensured, as further recognised in the CFP.

Targets

The new CFP (2014) environmental objectives and targets are:

  • the populations of fish stocks are progressively restored and maintained above biomass levels that can produce the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), while applying the precautionary approach. This sustainable biomass objective has been further translated into a management target, which is to ensure all fish stocks are exploited (i.e. the level of fishing pressure) at MSY rates by 2015 where possible and by 2020 at the latest.
  • to implement the ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management 

 

The overall MSFD (2008) objective is to reach Good Environmental Status (GES) of the marine environment by 2020. For its descriptor D3 on commercial fish stocks, this means "Populations of all commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within safe biological limits, exhibiting a population age and size distribution that is indicative of a healthy stock". Concretely this means:

  • Sustainable exploitation: fishing mortality (F) is at or below levels that deliver Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), i.e. F ≤ FMSY.
  • Reproductive capacity intact: (or its proxy) spawning stock biomass (SSB) is above the reference level, i.e. SSB  ≥ SSBmsy (or above its proxy). 

Related policy documents

Key policy question

Is fishing pressure in European seas decreasing?

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

The calculations in this indicator are based on data that came from STECF EWG 13-13, which is based on data submitted by Member States in response to the DCF fishing effort data call in 2013. While this is probably the best source of information, and STECF notes a general improvement in Member States’ submissions with regard to data completeness and quality, the information is still compromised by delays in some Member States’ submissions, incomplete and erroneous data submissions and re-submissions.

STECF EWG 13-13 compiled information on nominal fishing effort by all European fleet segments (in units of kilowatt days-at-sea). That is presently the best data source for a comprehensive assessment of effort at European level.

The data was grouped by regional seas or areas as follows:

STECF code

Regional Sea

Bal

Baltic sea

BoB

Bay of Biscay

BS

Black sea

Cel1

Celtic sea

Cel2

Celtic sea

DS

Deep sea

FDFBAL

Baltic sea

FDFIIA

North sea

FDFIIC

North sea

IIa

North sea

IIb

North sea

IIc

North sea

MED

Mediterranean

WW

Western Waters

This is a first attempt to match these different sea areas to the regional seas considered under the MSFD and used in CSI032 (with the exception of the Deep Sea and Western Waters, which cover more than one sea) and, as yet, they are not always equivalent.

Based on available information on vessel length we distinguished between large and small vessels to better differentiate the fishing fleet. These segments have different technological characteristics and, hence, their potential and actual pressure and impact on the marine environment differs. The categories of vessel length differed between regions, therefore a 12 metre vessel length was applied as the threshold between large and small for the Baltic sea, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, while for the other areas this was 15 metres. The correspondence between the STECF vessel categories and the regional seas is as follows:

Baltic sea small: o8t10m  o10t12m

Mediterranean and Black Sea small: VL0006 VL0012 VL0612

Other seas small: O10T15M

All other size categories were considered large for all seas.

 

The fishing effort of the European fleet is expressed in kilowatt days-at-sea by multiplying the engine power with the numbers of days it is deployed each year.

The fishing gear types have been divided into categories that differ in terms of relative seafloor impact (see table below). Five categories were identified based on fishing technique and gear type that impact the seafloor differently: mobile gear with high (MBH), low (MBL) and no impact (MP) on the seafloor, together with two types of passive gear of which PL has less impact than PGPT. The link to other categories used in STECF and in the Data Collection Framework (DCF) under the CFP is provided.

It should be noted that this is an indicative assessment based on expert judgment. In particular, the impact of techniques/gear with low impact on the seafloor should be seen as relative to those that have a high-impact in the category “Mobile Bottom” and not in absolute terms. The objective of such categorisation was to capture any shifts within the mobile bottom category towards a less impacting alternative.

Table - Categories of fishing technique and gear type based on impact on the seafloor.

Types of fishing techniques

Codes used in

STECF-13-21, 2013

Gear code

specified for

métiers In

App. IV of

Commission Decision 2010/93/EU

Categories

CSI034 Code

Mobile gear

Dredges

 

DREDGE

DRB, HMD

Mobile

Bottom

High impact

MBH

Beam trawls

 

BEAM , BT1, BT2, 3a

TBB

Bottom trawls &

demersal seines

Bottom otter trawls, Multi-rig otter trawls or bottom pair trawls

OTTER, TR1, TR2, TR3, 3a

OTB, OTT,

PTB

Mobile

bottom

low impact

MBL

Fly shooting seines, anchored seines or pair seines

DEM_SEINE

SSC, SDN,

SPR

Pelagic trawls &

pelagic Seines

Midwater otter trawls or

midwater pair trawls

PEL_TRAWL

ОТМ, РТМ

Mobile

Pelagic

MP

Purse seines,

fly shooting seines or

anchored seines

PEL_SEINE

PS

Passive gears

Drifting longlines or

set longlines

 

LONGLINE, 3c, LL1

LHP, UHM,

ITL, LLD, LLS

Passive

longline

PL

Driftnets or

set gillnets

 

GILL, 3b, GN1

GNS, GND

Passive

gillnet,

pots &

traps

PGPT

Trammel nets

 

TRAMMEL, 3b, 3t, GT1

GTR

Pots & traps

 

POTS

FPO

 

 

Methodology for gap filling

No gap filling has been applied 

Methodology references

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

This indicator is a first attempt to match the different sea areas used to report under the Common Fisheries Policy and the regional seas of Europe relevant for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (with the exception of the Deep Sea and Western Waters, which cover more than one sea). As yet, they are not always equivalent and therefore hamper a comparison with e.g. CSI032 - Status of fish stock, which uses the regional seas of Europe sensu MSFD.

Data sets uncertainty

The reporting of capacity and effort of the European fishing fleet is based on the data of all EU-28 Member States reported in STECF-13-13. Data for the EU-7 Member States has only become available from 2004 onwards, while for the Black Sea region, data only covers the period after which Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU (2008 onwards). For the North Sea, Bay of Biscay, Celtic Seas, Western Waters and Deep Sea and Baltic sea data was available until 2012, for the Mediterranean and Black sea this was 2011.

Capacity is disaggregated by métiers and any further aggregation is representative only in relative terms under the assumption that vessel specific activities by metier are constant where more than one metier per vessel is conducted.

Nominal effort figures in units of kilowatt days by métiers can be further aggregated without any multiple counts.

Rationale uncertainty

While the aim of this indicator is to ultimately identify and calculate appropriate metrics for these two fishing-induced pressures, the current analysis presents two metrics that describe the activity in terms of its capacity and the effort exerted on the marine ecosystem. These two metrics can be calculated for all European marine waters with the data currently available. However, they should be considered crude proxies for fishing pressure (and associated impact), which is what this indicator ultimately strives to capture.

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Constança De Carvalho Belchior

Ownership

European Environment Agency (EEA)

Identification

Indicator code
CSI 034
MAR 009
Specification
Version id: 2
Primary theme: Coasts and seas Coasts and seas

Permalinks

Permalink to this version
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Permalink to latest version
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Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 2 years

Classification

DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Related content

Data references used

Latest figures and vizualizations

Relevant policy documents

Geographic coverage

Comments

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