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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Status of marine fish stocks / Status of marine fish stocks (CSI 032) - Assessment published Sep 2011

Status of marine fish stocks (CSI 032) - Assessment published Sep 2011

Indicator Assessmentexpired Created 12 Nov 2010 Published 12 Sep 2011 Last modified 03 Mar 2015, 12:10 PM
This content has been archived on 03 Mar 2015, reason: Other (New version data-and-maps/indicators/status-of-marine-fish-stocks-2/assessment was published)
 
Contents
 

Indicator definition

The indicator tracks the ratio of the number of over-fished stocks to the total number of commercial stocks per fishing area in European seas.
Fish species rarely reproduce randomly with con-species throughout their geographical range, but form a series of stocks that are reproductively isolated in space and time. Cod for instance form a stock in the North Sea and another one in the Iceland area. These are isolated from each other and one can potentially be fished out while the other is thriving. European eel is an example of an extreme situation where there is only one stock as all mature eel migrate to the Sargasso Sea to spawn in random mixture with each other. 

It should be noted that in the Northeast Atlantic area stocks are generally defined based on biological criteria and knowledge of population migration, mixing and spawning areas, while in the Mediterranean due to lack of biological knowledge, stocks are defined largely by area and not in general on the basis of well established biological knowledge on population units.

 

Commercial stocks are the stocks of economic importance on which the fishing effort is focused upon in each area aiming at a profit, i.e. a subset of exploited stocks. It is a broader term encompassing target species, by-catches and industrial species that are of economic importance to the market.
Overfished stocks are stocks outside safe biological limits
Safe stocks are stocks inside safe biological limits
Non-assessed stocks are stocks for which no assessment has been carried out.

The indicator also contains information on:
1. Numbers of commercial, assessed and over-fished stocks by sea area;
2. The state of commercial stocks (over-fished stocks per area), safe stocks, stocks for which an assessment has not been carried out.
3. Fish catch in specific seas from assessed and unassessed stocks.
4. Status of stocks by species and seas.

Units

Landings and spawning stock biomass are given in thousand tonnes, recruitment in million tonnes; fishing mortality is expressed as the proportion of a stock that is removed by fishing activities in a year.


Key policy question: Is the use of commercial fish stocks sustainable?

Key messages

Most of the EU commercial catch is currently taken from stocks that are assessed. There is, however, a clear trend from north to south: almost all catches in the north come from assessed stocks, whereas in the south this only happens for around half of the catch. 

Of the assessed commercial stocks in the NE Atlantic, about one third is outside safe biological limits. In the Mediterranean, about half of the assessed stocks are fished outside safe biological limits. In the Black Sea no stocks are assessed.

State of commercial fish stocks in North East Atlantic and Baltic Sea

Note: The figure shows the state of commercial fish stocks in North East Atlantic and Baltic Sea. Status of fish stocks was assessed in 2009 in the ICES regions , although data refers to 2008. Elasmobranchs not included as they constitute only about 3% of the total catch in the NE Atlantic and consist of many species and stocks which would mask the general trend.

Data source:

ICES, 2008. International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, www.ices.dk/indexfla.asp

Downloads and more info

State of commercial fish stocks in Mediterranean Sea

Note: The figure shows the state of commercial fish stocks in the Mediterranean Sea. Status of fish stocks was assessed from 2001-2009 in the GFCM regions, although data refers to 2005. Year in the cells refer to year of ICCAT or GFCM assessments.

Data source:

ICCAT 2009, http://www.iccat.int/Documents/Other/2009-RECRES_ENG.pdf

GFCM, 2005. General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, http://www.gfcm.org/gfcm/en

FAO General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean/Commission générale des pêches pour la Méditerranée. 2009. Report of the eleventh session of the Scientific Advisory Committee. Marrakech, Morocco, 1–5 December 2008/Rapport de la onzième session du Comité scientifique consultatif. Marrakech, Maroc, 1-5 décembre 2008. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Report/FAO Rapport sur les pêches et l’aquaculture. No. 890. Rome, FAO. 86p
 

 

 

Downloads and more info

Status of fish stocks in International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) fishing regions of Europe

Note: The map shows the status of the fish stocks in ICES and GFCM fishing regions of Europe in 2008. Status of fish stocks was assessed in 2009 (ICES) and from 2002-2009 (GFCM), although data refers to 2008 in the ICES regions and 2005 in the GFCM regions.

Data source:

Downloads and more info

Total catch in International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) fishing regions in Europe

Note: The map shows the total catch in ICES and GFCM fishing regions of Europe. Status of fish stocks was assessed in 2009 (ICES) and from 2002-2009 (GFCM), although data refers to 2008 in the ICES regions and 2005 in the GFCM regions. Catch is divided into proportions of catch of assessed stocks (green) and catch of unassessed stocks (white).

Data source:


Downloads and more info

Key assessment

The status of commercial fish stocks shows that overfishing in Europe's Seas continues to be a problem (Figure 1). At present, 30% of the stocks for which information exists are fished outside safe biological limits (SBL). Of the assessed commercial stocks in the NE Atlantic, 21% (Baltic Sea) to 62 % (Iberian Peninsula waters) are outside SBL.  For the other areas in the NE Atlantic the percentages of stocks outside safe biological limits vary between 30% and 54%. In the Mediterranean, reports on status of fish stocks are sporadic and irregularly updated. Information from 2005 suggests that the percentage of stocks outside SBL ranges from 44% to 78%, with the Adriatic Sea being in the worst condition.

 

Although many commercial fish stocks are assessed (Figure 2), there is a tendency of assessing more stocks in the north than in the south. In the NE Atlantic, the percentage (of catch in weight to the total catch) of non-assessed stocks range from a minimum of less than 0.5 % (Arctic Northwest) to a maximum of 30 % (Celtic Seas and eastern and western Channel). In the Mediterranean region, this percentage is higher, ranging from 23% in the Adriatic Sea to 70% for tuna and tuna like species for the entire Mediterranean. In the Black Sea assessment is sporadic and only beginning to be internationally coordinated.

In general, pelagic stocks (fish living in the waters column well above the sea bottom and sometimes close to the sea surface) are in better condition than demersal (fish living close to the sea bottom) stocks. When examining the NE Atlantic stocks more closely (Figure 3), the following conclusions can be drawn:

  • The pelagic stocks are generally fished sustainably. 
  • Almost all demersal stocks have declined and are currently not sustainable. Over the recent decades there has been a slight, but steady decline in the stocks and there is still no clear sign of a stop of this trend.  
  • Industrial species like capelin and sandeel are in a poor state. This is, however, more due to natural causes than high fishing pressure (ICES Advisory Report 2008).

 

In the Mediterranean region (Figure 4) the following conclusions can be drawn: 

  • Many assessments that cover wider areas are based on preliminary results.
  • Demersal stocks remain outside safe biological limits. Small pelagic stocks in the same area exhibit large-scale fluctuations, but are generally not fully exploited, except for anchovy and pilchard in the Southern Alboran and Cretan Seas.
  • According to the latest assessment by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT 2009) swordfish is now considered overexploited.
  • Strong concern still remains about the over-exploitation or even risk of stock collapse of bluefin tuna.  Uncertainties of stock assessment and a lack of documented reporting (including by EU Member States) still affect the management of this highly migratory species. Bluefin tuna catches continue to exceed the sustainable level and ICCAT states in its recent assessment of 2008: "it is apparent that the total allowable catch is not respected and is largely ineffective in controlling overall catch”. The Committee's evaluation of the current regulatory scheme is that “unless it is adjusted to impose greater control over the fisheries by improving compliance and to reduce fishing mortality rates, it will lead to further reduction in spawning stock biomass with high risk of fisheries and stock collapse." The new EC Community Fisheries Control Agency (http://cfca.europa.eu/pages/home/home.htm) has put bluefin tuna control as one of its top priorities for 2009 and 2010 work.

 

Across Europe, the status of the European eel is also of concern, because its stock has been decreasing constantly over the past 2-3 decades. In 2009, eel was included in CITES Appendix II that deals with species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled to avoid utilization incompatible with the survival of the species (see http://www.cites.org/eng/disc/how.shtml) and the EC agreed to implement a recovery plan. Eel stock is now managed with the aim of obtaining sustainable exploitation on a total stock level.  

 

The main actions taken by EU, Norway and ICES to recover the NE Atlantic stocks outside safe biological limits are: 

  • Recovery plans have now been developed and agreed for several demersal stocks. 
  • It has been advised to develop recovery plans for cod fishing in the Irish Sea, west of Scotland and the Kattegat to rebuild the stocks. 
  • Days-at-sea regulations were added to the existing regulations (such asTotal Allowable Catches, license, minimum mesh and landing sizes, closed areas and seasons etc.) a few years ago to reduce fishing mortality.
  • Improving control of illegal landings that in some countries have been estimated as high as 30%. However, estimating illegal landings remains a difficult task since there is at present no institution within the entire management system responsible for this.
  • Only allow slow expansion of deep-sea fisheries until reliable assessments indicating that increased harvests are sustainable are available.

Data sources

Policy context and targets

Context description

The sustainable exploitation of fish stocks is regulated through the EU Common Fishery Policy (OJ C 158 27.06.1980). Regulatory arrangements, identifying harvesting levels  based on the CFP, the precautionary principle and multi-annual fisheries plans, were set through the Cardiff European Council (COM (2000) 803). Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for the stocks in the NE Atlantic and the Baltic Sea are set annually by the Fisheries Council. In the Mediterranean Sea, where no TACs have been set except for the highly migratory tunas and swordfish, fisheries management is achieved by means of closed areas and seasons to keep fishing effort under control and make exploitation patterns more rational. The General Fisheries Council for the Mediterranean (GFCM) attempts to harmonise the process.

 

The latest Action Plan on Fisheries management as part of the CFP reform was presented to the Fisheries Council in October 2002, and Council Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002 of 20 December 2002 on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the Common Fisheries Policy is now in force. A new set of regulations has since been adopted on specific issues.

Targets

Sustainable exploitation of fish stocks is a target of the EU common fishery policy (CFP).

Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for the individual stocks in the NE Atlantic and the Baltic Sea are set annually by the Fisheries Council. In the Mediterranean Sea, where no TACs have yet been set (except for the highly migratory tunas and swordfish), fisheries management is achieved by means of closed areas and seasons that are designed to keep fishing effort under control and make exploitation patterns more rational.

Related policy documents

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Number of commercial stocks = 12
Number of assessed stocks = overfished +safe = 1+11= 12
Stock are regarded as within safe biological limits if the stocks size with a high probability is high enough to secure average future recruitment (in technical terms if SSB is above Bpa as defined by ICES). The numbers of overfished and safe stocks have been extracted from the relevant sources. Their ratio has been calculated and presented in pie charts per fishing area.

The above data are from ICES Advice 2006 (section 1.5.1.1 supplemented by Icelandic, Faroese and Barents Sea stocks).  The definition used here is the sum of the stocks listed as overfished and within safe biological limits. Shell fish are not included.

Fish species rarely reproduce randomly with con-species throughout their geographical range, but form a series of stocks that are reproductively isolated in space and time. Cod for instance form a stock in the North Sea and another one in the Iceland area. These are isolated from each other and one can potentially be fished out while the other is thriving. European eel is an example of an extreme situation where there is only one stock as all mature eel migrate to the Sargasso Sea to spawn in random mixture with each other. 


 

Methodology for gap filling

In the case of the Mediterranean since yearly assessment focuses only on four species with limited geographical coverage ( or 6 out of the new 27 units ) it was decided to use the old geographical units and include assessments of species that were presented (ad hoc) in the 2001 assessment.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

All international fisheries organisations use almost the same principles to determine the state of the stocks, and ICES has fine-tuned the methodology used. However decisions are based on safety margins usually set at 30 % above safe limits which in turn bears a degree of uncertainty since estimates of fishing mortality (F) and Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) are themselves uncertain; the decision on the reference points is then a task for managers, not scientists.

Species and spatial coverage for the Mediterranean is limited. No reference points have been defined for the Mediterranean stocks. The detailed stock assessments for the NE Atlantic and Baltic are obtained through ICES. In the Mediterranean, stock assessments are carried out by the General Fisheries Council for the Mediterranean (GFCM) and, in the absence of complete or independent information on fishing intensity or fishing mortality, are based mainly on landings. Stock assessment is thus based mainly on analysis of landing trends, biomass surveys, and analysis of commercial catch per unit effort (CPUE) data. On the Mediterranean supplementary work is being carried out by DG Fisheries, and a number of internationally funded bottom trawl surveys (MEDITS, SAMED).

Shellfish and cephalopodes are not included in this assessment. It cannot be assumed that fish indicators represent the status of these two groups in relation to sustainable fishing, because they are mainly prey for fish species and will therefore often show the opposite stock development of the fish.

Data sets uncertainty

In the Mediterranean, fisheries management is considered to be at an early stage compared with the NE Atlantic. Catch and effort statistics are not considered to be fully reliable and much effort is directed at estimation of corrective factors (Papaconstantinou & Farrugio, 2000).
Unreported landings are still considered to be a major problem.

Rationale uncertainty

Slightly different approaches are being used in the Mediterranean and the NE Atlantic to determine whether a stock is outside safe biological limits.

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Generic metadata

Topics:

Fisheries Fisheries (Primary topic)

Coasts and seas Coasts and seas

Tags:
fish catch | soer2010 | csi | baseline | fisheries | nature and biodiversity | fish stock | water resources | marine and coastal | thematic assessments | marine | synthesis
DPSIR: State
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 032
Dynamic
Temporal coverage:
2008-2009
Geographic coverage:
Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea, Albania, Arctic Ocean, Austria, Baltic Sea, Bay of Biscay, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Celtic Sea, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Gulf of Lion, Hungary, Iberian Sea, Iceland, Ionian Sea, Ireland, Irish Sea, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mediterranean Sea, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Sea, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Constança De Carvalho Belchior

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2010 2.4.2 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100