Status of marine fish and shellfish stocks in European seas

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-13-en
Also known as: CSI 032 , MAR 007
Created 10 Jun 2019 Published 10 Oct 2019 Last modified 10 Oct 2019
14 min read
Although further improvements are still necessary, the analysis of long time series shows clear and important signs of improvement in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea ( 62.5 - 87.5 % of stocks meet at least one of the good environmental status criteria in these regions). Since the early 2000s, better management of fish and shellfish stocks has contributed to a clear decrease in fishing pressure in these two regional seas, with average fishing mortality dropping below the maximum rate of fishing mortality in 2017. This has led to signs of recovery in the reproductive capacity of several fish and shellfish stocks. If these efforts continue, fishing mortality in the region should remain on average near the maximum rate of fishing mortality and reproductive capacity should continue to improve, accomplishing the 2020 objective for healthy fish and shellfish stocks in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea. In contrast, the situation remains critical in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Only 2 out of 33 stocks (6 %) in the Mediterranean Sea and 1 out of 7 stocks (14.3 %) in the Black Sea meet at least one of the good environmental status criteria. This is mainly due to the prevalence of overfishing and a significant lack of knowledge of the status of fish and shellfish stocks. Given this scenario, i t is unlikely that the 2020 policy objective will be met in the Mediterranean or Black Sea. Overall, the 2020 objective of having healthy fish and shellfish populations is unlikely to be met in Europe’s seas without further collective action.

Key messages

  • Although further improvements are still necessary, the analysis of long time series shows clear and important signs of improvement in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea ( 62.5 - 87.5 % of stocks meet at least one of the good environmental status criteria in these regions). Since the early 2000s, better management of fish and shellfish stocks has contributed to a clear decrease in fishing pressure in these two regional seas, with average fishing mortality dropping below the maximum rate of fishing mortality in 2017. This has led to signs of recovery in the reproductive capacity of several fish and shellfish stocks. If these efforts continue, fishing mortality in the region should remain on average near the maximum rate of fishing mortality and reproductive capacity should continue to improve, accomplishing the 2020 objective for healthy fish and shellfish stocks in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea.
  • In contrast, the situation remains critical in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Only 2 out of 33 stocks (6 %) in the Mediterranean Sea and 1 out of 7 stocks (14.3 %) in the Black Sea meet at least one of the good environmental status criteria. This is mainly due to the prevalence of overfishing and a significant lack of knowledge of the status of fish and shellfish stocks. Given this scenario, it is unlikely that the 2020 policy objective will be met in the Mediterranean or Black Sea.
  • Overall, the 2020 objective of having healthy fish and shellfish populations is unlikely to be met in Europe’s seas without further collective action.

How far is Europe from achieving a robust assessment of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive's 'good environmental status' for commercial fish and shellfish stocks?

Landings of commercial fish and shellfish per EU marine region, and proportion of landings for which stock assessments were conducted in 2016-2018

Note: This figure shows the 2017 landings of commercially exploited fish and shellfish per EU marine region (although for the Mediterranean and Black seas data refers to 2016), and the proportions of landings for which stock assessments were conducted in 2016-2018 (not all stocks have annual assessments). See the related Excel File for extra details. A distinction is made between (1) the landings for assessed stocks for which adequate information is available to determine GES for F and SSB, (2) the landings for assessed stocks for which insufficient information is available to determine GES for F or SSB, and (3) the assessed stocks for which the available information on both F and SSB is insufficient to determine GES. For further information, see the Methodology section on how this distinction is made and European Commission Decision No 2017/848/EU on criteria and methodological standards on GES of marine waters.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Status of the assessed European commercial fish and shellfish stocks in relation to Good Environmental Status (GES) per EU marine region in 2015-2017

Note: This figure shows the status of the assessed European commercially exploited fish and shellfish stocks in relation to ‘good environmental status’ (GES) per EU marine region in 2017 (although for the Mediterranean and Black Seas, data refer to 2016). Stocks for which adequate information is available to determine GES for fishing mortality (F) and/or reproductive capacity (spawning stock biomass (SSB)) are included (where Z is the total number of stocks, Y is the total number of assessed stocks and X is the number of stocks for which adequate information is available to determine GES on the basis of these two criteria). A distinction is made between stocks that are (1) in good status based on both F and SSB; (2) in good status based on only one criteria, F or SSB (either because one of the two criteria are not in good status or there is only one available criteria and it is in good status); and (3) not in good status (based on both F and SSB or there is only one criteria available and it is not in good status). As assessments are carried out in a multiannual cycle within the Mediterranean Sea, the number of stocks included for this region depends on the period covered. See the Methodology section for further information on how good status is determined.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Trends in the status of stocks and progress made in achieving 'good environmental status'

North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea since 1945
Data sources: Explore chart interactively
Mediterranean Sea, 2003-2016
Data sources: Explore chart interactively
Western Mediterranean Sea, 2003-2016
Data sources: Explore chart interactively
Central Mediterranean Sea, 2003-2016
Data sources: Explore chart interactively
Eastern Mediterranean Sea, 2003-2016
Data sources: Explore chart interactively
Black Sea, 2003-2016
Data sources: Explore chart interactively
Table
Data sources: Explore chart interactively

Introduction

In Europe, fish stocks and fishing fleets are managed by the common fisheries policy (CFP). The CFP applies to all vessels fishing in European waters and also to EU vessels fishing in non-European waters. The scope of the CFP includes the conservation of marine biological resources and the sustainable management of the fisheries that target them. To that end, the CFP aims to ensure that, within a reasonable time frame, the rate of exploitation of marine biological resources allows the restoration and maintenance of populations of harvested stocks above levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The MSY is the maximum catch (in numbers or biomass) that can be removed from a population (or stock) over an indefinite period. FMSY is the constant exploitation rate expected to give MSY catches in the long term. Exploiting fish and shellfish stocks at or below the FMSY allows them to be maintained at, or to recover to, healthy levels that can provide food for consumers while contributing to important ecosystem and marine food web functions.

In parallel, safeguarding healthy commercially exploited fish and shellfish populations[1] is 1 of the 11 descriptors (descriptor 3) of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) for achieving 'good environmental status' (GES). This objective is closely related to the objectives of the CFP, in particular the objective of ensuring an MSY for all stocks by 2015 where possible, or by 2020 at the latest. At present, the status of commercial fish and shellfish populations, in relation to this target of achieving the MSY (and hence GES), is assessed using two GES criteria: the level of fishing pressure, represented by fishing mortality (F), and a stock’s reproductive capacity, represented by spawning stock biomass (SSB). The MSFD has put forward a third criterion for GES: a healthy age and size distribution of individuals in the populations of commercially exploited fish and shellfish species; however, because at present there is no agreed method to assess this it was not included in this assessment.  

Finally, the commitments taken by the EU within the EU 2020 biodiversity strategy, and in particular target 4, reflect the vision of the EU for 'Halting the loss of marine biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services'. Target 4 required that fishing become sustainable (MSY had been achieved) by 2015 and that fish stocks become healthy by 2020. Fishing must have no significant adverse impacts on species or ecosystems, so that all European oceans and seas can be ecologically diverse and dynamic, as well as clean, healthy and productive, by 2020.

[1] Commercially exploited populations refer to all marine biological resources targeted for economic profit, including the bony fish (teleosts), sharks and rays (elasmobranchs), crustaceans, such as lobsters and shrimps, and molluscs (including bivalves and cephalopods).

Assessment

Figs 1-3 provide information on how much progress Europe[2] has made in its robust assessment of, and towards achieving, GES (in line with the MSFD) of its commercially exploited fish and shellfish stocks based on two of the three criteria that define GES.


[2] Figs 1 and 2 present data for the Arctic Ocean (including Norwegian waters), Iceland, Greenland and the Faroes. However, numbers described in the assessment text do not include these regions, and refer exclusively to assessments and landings in the following ecoregions: Azores, Baltic Sea, Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast, Celtic Seas, Greater North Sea, Oceanic waters, and widely distributed stocks. For the Mediterranean Sea (three regions: eastern, central and western) and Black Sea, the numbers in the figures and the text are the same.

Fig. 1 shows commercial European fish landings by EU marine region for 2017 (although for the Mediterranean and Black Seas, data refer to 2016) and the proportions of landings for which stock assessments were conducted in 2016-2018 (not all stocks have annual assessments). Within this figure, fish landings are divided into three categories: (1) landings for assessed stocks for which adequate information is available to determine GES for fishing mortality and reproductive capacity, (2) landings for assessed stocks for which insufficient information is available to determine GES for fishing mortality and reproductive capacity, and (3) landings for assessed stocks for which information on both fishing mortality and reproductive capacity is insufficient to determine GES (see the Methodology section for further information on how this distinction is made). While the information base continues to improve, knowledge gaps still remain. For the European seas, about a third of landings (34 %) are from stocks whose status could be assessed against at least one GES criterion. However, there are distinct regional differences. Fig. 1 shows that an assessment of status is only possible for 6.5 % of total landings from the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, compared with 36 % of those from the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea.

Therefore, the EU still faces the challenge of the need to assess more stocks to obtain better information to inform GES assessments, particularly for many of the smaller and less commercial stocks, which often lack information upon which to base an assessment of GES.

Fig. 2 shows the status of the assessed European commercially exploited fish and shellfish stocks in relation to GES per EU marine region in 2017 (although in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, data refer to 2016) (see the Methodology section for information on how GES is determined). While this figure is informative in terms of the status of assessed commercially exploited fish and shellfish stocks per EU marine region for 2017, it does not provide any information on possible temporal trends.

The latest available information shows that around 45 % of the assessed commercially exploited fish and shellfish stocks in Europe's seas are not in good status based on both fishing mortality and reproductive capacity criteria or on only one criterion where only one was available. The other 55 % of stocks met at least one of the criteria for GES. This assessment does not include the third GES criterion on age and size structure of the populations, as this cannot be assessed at present. There are strong regional differences though, with approximately 80 % of the commercial fish and shellfish stocks in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea meeting at least one of the two GES criteria (fishing mortality and reproductive capacity), while only 20 % are not in good status based on both of these criteria. The status of commercial fish and shellfish stocks is especially critical in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea where only 7.5 % are in good status based on a single criterion (2 out of 33 (6 %) and 1 out of 7 (14.3 %), respectively), and no stock is in good status based on both fishing mortality and reproductive capacity.

Fig. 3 shows the trend in the status of stock assessments and progress made in GES assessments in (1) the North-East Atlantic and Baltic Sea between 1945 and 2017 and (2) the Mediterranean and Black Seas between 2003 and 2016.

For the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea, the data shown in Fig. 3 are based on 76 stocks assessed. For a maximum of 70 stocks, it was possible to calculate both F and SSB in relation to their MSY reference points (i.e. F/FMSY and SSB/MSY Btrigger). The yearly averages and ranges for each metric are presented in Fig. 3. For fishing mortality, 1 (F = FMSY) is the value above which exploitation exceeds the level that would produce the maximum yield, and is likely to be less sustainable in the long term. For reproductive capacity, the value of MSY Btrigger differs by stock, either Bpa (a stock status reference point above which the stock is considered to have full reproductive capacity, having accounted for estimation uncertainty) or the lower bound of SSB when the stock is fished at FMSY (the 5th percentile of the distribution of SSB when fishing at FMSY). A value greater than 1 (SSB > MSY Btrigger) indicates that the stocks are in a healthy condition with regard to reproductive capacity. Fig. 3 shows how fishing mortality has increased over time from approximately sustainable levels (F = 1) in the 1950s to a maximum that was more than double the sustainable level, reached in the late 1990s. This was followed by a steep decline towards sustainable levels, and on average had reduced to below FMSY by 2017. This resulted in a gradual decrease in the reproductive capacity of the stocks until, in the early 2000s, a minimum was reached, which was just above the precautionary limit. This indicates that, on average, reproductive capacity was almost at risk of being impaired. Since the early 2000s, the first signs of recovery have been visible, probably as a result of the decrease in fishing mortality. During this period, there were more restrictive total allowable catches (TACs) and many decommissioning projects reduced fishing capacity in the EU. In addition, some of these developments observed over time may have been caused by newly assessed stocks being introduced into the analysis. However, this has become increasingly less likely in recent years, as the assessment has become based on many stocks and therefore any effect caused by the addition (or removal) of stocks will be relatively minor. Therefore, the conclusions that there has been an overall reduction in fishing mortality and a subsequent recovery of reproductive capacity are expected to be robust.

For the Mediterranean and Black Seas, the data shown in Fig. 3 are based on 47 stocks assessed. In the Mediterranean Sea (and Black Sea), there are almost no data on stock biomass and the most common indicator of stock status is F/FMSY (level of exploitation). It was possible to calculate both F and SSB in relation to MSY reference points (i.e. F/FMSY and SSB/BMSY) for only 2 of the 47 stocks. Therefore, the graph shows F/FMSY for exploitation and SSB/SSB2003 for reproductive capacity. Yearly averages and ranges for each metric are presented in Fig. 3. For fishing mortality, 1 (F = FMSY) is the value above which exploitation exceeds the level that would produce the maximum yield, and is likely to be less sustainable in the long term. For reproductive capacity, a value greater than 1 indicates that reproductive capacity has improved in relation to 2003. However, in the absence of reproductive capacity reference points, this does not necessarily imply that stocks are in a healthy condition. For most stocks, it is likely that reproductive capacity was below a healthy level in 2003. This figure shows how fishing mortality has remained fairly stable on average since 2003, but has started to decline slightly in the last 5 years. Reproductive capacity likewise has remained fairly stable, with some improvements over the last 5 years as exploitation has decreased.

Main findings

Environmental ambitions and objectives are clearly strong drivers of fishery management policies in Europe. Environmental mainstreaming efforts are in place and alignments of these policies have become well defined. This is mainly related to the existence of high-level objectives, such as the MSFD and CFP objectives related to achieving GES for the marine environment. The evidence, as analysed above, suggests that targeted policy actions and committed management efforts can protect and/or restore stocks, and thus help preserve ecosystem integrity.

Efforts to improve fishery management are examples of positive actions and of how EU policies can reverse trends [3] caused by some of the long-term pressures in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea. Since the early 2000s, better management of commercially exploited fish and shellfish stocks has contributed to a clear decrease in fishing pressure in these two marine regions, with the average fishing mortality dropping below FMSY in 2017. Signs of recovery in the reproductive capacity of several of these stocks have started to appear. If these efforts continue, fishing mortality in these regions should, on average, remain near FMSY and reproductive capacity should continue to improve, which would accomplish the objective of healthy fish and shellfish stocks in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea by 2020.

[3] Fishery management efforts include restricting TACs, effort control and access restrictions. Packaging these measures into multiannual plans (MAPs) allows some stability in the industry, while continuing to ensure the sustainability of fisheries. Furthermore, the European Commission introduced a discard plan, to help decrease the pressure exerted by fisheries on juveniles, as fish previously banned from being landed now have to be landed and are counted towards the TAC.

In contrast, there is no clear sign of improvement in relation to GES criteria in the Mediterranean Sea or Black Sea, where the vast majority of the stocks assessed are fished at biologically unsustainable levels. There remains a lack of biomass reference points for many stocks in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, so it is not possible to track development towards sustainable reproductive capacity. However, in the last 5 years there have been signs of an increase in biomass (compared with 2003 levels). Likewise, although F remains well above FMSY on average, recent years have seen progress in reducing this difference. However, these figures still indicate that urgent action is needed and success will depend on the availability and quality of marine information, the commitment to implement scientific advice and an adequate uptake of management measures. In addition to improved scientific information, the accessibility of that information could be improved. This will allow more effective monitoring of progress towards CFP objectives.

In addition, a major step change is required to reduce both the proportion of TACs set above scientifically recommended levels and the number of TACs set without scientific recommendations, since this significantly reduces the likelihood of earlier stock recovery. Strong management decisions and transparent decision-making processes are required if TACs are to be brought in line with scientific advice by 2020 (Nimmo and Cappell, 2017).

But this is not enough, as ensuring healthy fish and shellfish populations does not depend solely on fishing at environmentally sustainable levels. Healthy fish populations depend on healthy marine ecosystems. Marine ecosystems are under pressure from a myriad of factors, including climate change, mechanical destruction, noise resulting from human activities, the alteration of water quality by microplastics and toxic substances, ghost fishing and marine litter. Attempts to manage the European seas must account for the global context, multiple interactions between society and the environment, and possible unexpected abrupt and cumulative changes. This is crucial to improving our understanding of the system and identifying novel links and drivers of change, to prevent unexpected problems from occurring. Without an integrated approach to the management and protection of Europe's seas, the outlook beyond 2020 for productive seas and healthy fish and shellfish populations will continue to be a cause for concern, above all in a context of international ocean governance that should ensure the sustainable management of our global oceans.

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

The indicator tracks both the status of commercial fish stocks in European regional seas and the pressure exerted by fisheries on those stocks, as well as the quality of the information available. To that end, the following is reported:

  • the status of marine fish and shellfish stocks based on the current level of exploitation and reproductive capacity;
  • the importance of the (sub-)region, reflected by the total landings (as a proxy of catch) of fish from commercial fisheries in European seas per MSFD (sub-)region;
  • the availability of appropriate information for the status assessment, as reflected by the proportion of those landings covered by quantitative stock assessments (i.e. the proportion providing the required indicators and their reference levels).

Status of marine fish and shellfish stocks

The MSFD requires GES to be achieved by 2020 (EC, 2008). According to the MSFD (Descriptor 3), three criteria are relevant to determining if a fish or shellfish stock has achieved GES: (1) it should be exploited sustainably, consistent with high long-term yields; (2) it should have full reproductive capacity, to maintain stock biomass; and (3) a certain proportion of older and larger fish/shellfish should be maintained (or increased), as this is an indicator of a healthy stock.

  • Sustainable exploitation: sustainably exploited stocks are stocks for which F is at or below levels that deliver MSY, i.e. F ≤ FMSY. Thus, a stock is considered to have been assessed against this criterion only if values for F and FMSY are available, and the stock is considered to have achieved GES only if F ≤ FMSY.
  • Reproductive capacity: in areas assessed by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), the criterion for sustainable reproductive capacity (SSB > SSBMSY) has been changed, for pragmatic reasons, to SSB > MSY Btrigger. SSB is consistently provided as part of ICES stock assessments, i.e. of the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea, but not, for the most part, by assessments of the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), i.e. of the Mediterranean and Black Sea stocks. Similarly to the above, a stock is considered to have been assessed against this criterion if values for SSB and a good proxy for SSBMSY (i.e. MSY Btrigger) are available, and the stock is considered to have achieved GES only if SSB > SSBMSY (or an appropriate proxy).
  • Healthy age and size structure: in this case, the assumption is that a stock with sufficient numbers of old and large fish is healthy. However, this criterion is not sufficiently developed and no threshold for GES is known for this criterion. Therefore, it is not included.

This has resulted in four assessment categories:

  • not assessed: no sufficient information available to assess status;
  • F: status assessed based only on F and FMSY;
  • SSB: status assessed based only on SSB and SSBMSY (or some proxy, i.e. MSY Btrigger);
  • F and SSB: status assessed based on both F and SSB.

 

Because of ongoing discussions about the criteria integration rules for descriptor 3, the stocks are classified as:

  • assessed stocks for which adequate information is available to determine GES based on F and SSB;
  • assessed stocks for which insufficient information is available to determine GES based on F or SSB;
  • assessed stocks for which insufficient information is available to determine GES according to both reference points F and SSB.

 

For those stocks for which adequate information is available to determine GES based on fishing mortality (F) and/or reproductive capacity (SSB), a second distinction is made between (1) stocks in good status based on both fishing mortality and reproductive capacity; (2) stocks in good status based on only one criteria (either because one of the two criteria is in good status or data are available for only one criteria and it is in good status); and (3) stocks not in good status (either because one of the two criteria is not in good status or data are available for only one criteria and it is not in good status).

Total landings

Landings information for the North-East Atlantic and the Baltic Sea is based on the ICES official nominal catches, 2006-2017 data set. Fisheries nominal catch statistics are reported annually by national offices. In cooperation with Eurostat and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the ICES prepares and publishes the official nominal catch statistics data set for the North-East Atlantic (FAO major fishing area 27). Landings information for the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea is based on the FAO's capture production data set. For the Mediterranean and Black Seas, the figures are based on 2016 landings data.

Only some of the species/taxa in the landings data can be considered 'commercial fish', which, for assessment purposes, may consist of several stocks. Only some of these stocks are covered by quantitative stock assessments such that their status can be assessed based on the above criteria.

Stocks

In the North-East Atlantic area, stocks are generally defined based on biological criteria and knowledge of population migration, mixing and spawning areas. For example, cod in the North-East Atlantic is currently considered to form 16 different stocks, between which mixing is generally negligible. These stocks are found over multiple MSFD ecoregions, and some individual stock distributions cover more than one ecoregion. However, in this analysis each stock has been assigned to a single ecoregion (see Methodology).

In the Mediterranean and Black Seas, on the other hand, stocks are mostly defined by management area because of a lack of biological knowledge. Because these stocks are based on a specific geographical area, most can be attributed to a specific MSFD (sub-)region.

Units

The units used in this indicator are tonnes, as well as the proportion of catch for assessed stocks/non-assessed stocks. The assessment information is expressed as the proportion of landings covered by assessed stocks. The status of the assessed stocks can be expressed as the proportion of the landings of assessed fish and shellfish stocks or the proportion or number of fish and shellfish stocks.


Policy context and targets

Context description

The scope of the CFP includes the conservation of marine biological resources and the management of the fisheries that target them. To that end, the CFP should adapt exploitation rates to ensure that, within a reasonable time frame, the exploitation of marine biological resources allows the restoration and maintenance of populations of harvested stocks above levels that can produce the MSY. This should have been achieved by 2015 or should be achieved no later than 2020.

The aim of the MSFD is to achieve GES of the EU's marine waters by 2020 and to protect this resource, upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend. The MSFD enshrines in a legislative framework the ecosystem approach to the management of human activities that have an impact on the marine environment, integrating the concepts of environmental protection and sustainable use.

To achieve its goal, the directive establishes European marine regions and sub-regions on the basis of geographical and environmental criteria. The MSFD significantly strengthens Member States’ competences and responsibilities to maintain or achieve GES for all exploited fish and shellfish stocks inside territorial waters and exclusive economic zones (EEZs) with common goals. Three criteria in relation to GES have been identified for commercial fish and shellfish:

  • the level of exploitation;
  • reproductive capacity;
  • age and size distribution.

These requirements for GES, according to the MSFD, are aligned with the requirement for MSY for both the 'level of exploitation' and 'reproductive capacity' criteria. The 'age and size distribution' criterion is not yet sufficiently developed.

Targets

The MSFD aims to ensure that:

  • 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 being produced no later than 2020 (EC, 2008, Annex I);
  • all EU fish and shellfish stocks should be fished to produce an MSY no later than 2015 (EC, 2006); this implies that the targets are to achieve F ≤ FMSY and SSB ≥ SSBMSY (MSY Btrigger is used as a best proxy for SSBMSY).

Related policy documents

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea

For the North-East Atlantic Ocean (considering the sub-regions) and Baltic Sea, this indicator is calculated using the ICES stock assessment database. The ICES stock assessment database consists of 155 stock assessments, and provides information, by stock and by year, on a number of variables. The period for which this information is available varies depending on the stock.

Proportion of assessed stocks

Initially, two criteria are used to determine the status of commercial fish stocks, with GES being based on these criteria being met:

  • sustainable exploitation, consistent with high long-term yields;
  • full reproductive capacity.

F and SSB, in combination with an MSY-based reference value, are the most appropriate metrics for these two criteria. The metrics used for F and SSB may differ between stocks. It is preferable for F to be expressed as fishing pressure and SSB as stock size. This may result in a different number of stocks being assessed for each metric. 

Total landings in MSFD (sub-)regions

Stocks are assigned to an MSFD ecoregion based on the ICES sub-areas and -divisions mentioned in the Stocks sub-section of the indicator description. Please note that the MSFD regions assigned to fish stocks are not conclusive and may change after further consultation. The ICES is also presently developing a system for assigning stocks to appropriate ecoregions based on distribution and migration patterns as well as the location of landings. As landings are assigned to stock level rather than ecoregion level, landings may need to be redistributed over the different ecoregions. The ICES official nominal catches data set is used to calculate proportions, to redistribute stock landings over the different ecoregions. Landings are selected for species and areas as described in the stock description for stocks that cover more than one ecoregion. Selected landings are assigned to MSFD ecoregion. Thereafter, the proportion of landings in each ecoregion, in relation to the total selected landings, is calculated. The total landings by ecoregion are used to calculate the proportion, to redistribute stock landings over ecoregions.

Total landings data are extracted from the ICES official nominal catches data set (note: in FAO terminology, ‘nominal catches’ refer to ‘landings’) and are assigned to the different MSFD sub-regions based on area. The total landings for non-assessed stocks by ecoregion are calculated by subtracting total stock landings by ecoregion from the total landings by ecoregion.

Good status

The status of commercial species per MSFD ecoregion is assessed based on all stocks for which the required information on F and/or SSB is available. For each region, the proportion of stocks that fulfil one (only F or only SSB if both criteria are known), both (F and SSB) or neither (F nor SSB if only a single criterion is known) of the MSFD criteria for GES is calculated. Thus, the five different categories are:

  • F only: stocks for which information on only F is available and that fulfil the MSFD criterion for GES based on F;
  • SSB only: stocks for which information on only SSB is available and that fulfil the MSFD criterion for GES based on SSB;
  • F and SSB: stocks for which information on F and SSB is available and that fulfil the MSFD criteria for GES based on F and GES based on SSB;
  • F or SSB: stocks for which information on F and SSB is available and that fulfil the MSFD criterion for GES based on F or GES based on SSB;
  • none: stocks for which information on F and SSB is available and that do not fulfil the MSFD criterion for either of the two; or stocks for which information on only F or on only SSB is available and that do not fulfil the GES criterion.


Mediterranean and Black Seas

Proportion of assessed stocks

For the Mediterranean and Black Seas, information on assessed stocks is extracted from STECF Mediterranean and Black Sea Working Group reports. As assessments are carried out in a multiannual cycle, different stocks are included in each yearly working group report. Generally, stocks cover one or several geographical sub-areas (GSAs).

Initially, two criteria are used to determine the status of commercial fish stocks, with GES being based on these criteria being met:

  • sustainable exploitation, consistent with high long-term yields;
  • full reproductive capacity.

F and SSB, in combination with an MSY-based reference value, are the most appropriate metrics for these two criteria. The metrics used for F and SSB may differ between stocks. It is preferable for F to be expressed as fishing pressure and SSB as stock size. This may result in a different number of stocks being assessed for each metric. 

Total landings in MSFD (sub-)regions

Landings information for the Mediterranean and Black Seas is extracted from the FAO regional workspace including on 'GFCM (Mediterranean and Black Sea) capture production'. Landings information is available by fishing area (FAO division). Total landings for the assessed stocks for the Mediterranean and Black Seas are calculated by selecting landings for the species for which STECF provides F/FMSY information, where the following assumptions are made:

  • As the multiple fishing areas of the Mediterranean Sea do not directly coincide with the GSAs, overall landings are used for the Mediterranean Sea for the assessed species.
  • Landings are extracted by linking the common name in the stock description with the species name in the landings data set.

The total landings for non-assessed stocks in the Mediterranean and Black Seas are calculated by subtracting the total landings calculated for assessed stocks from the total landings for these two regions. 

Good status

Assessed as for the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea.

Methodology for gap filling

Not applicable

Methodology references

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

MSFD (sub-)regions

The matching of catch areas and stocks to the MSFD regions/sub-regions is not final and may change following further consultations.

Data sets uncertainty

Catch and stock assessment data

Depending on the year selected, the suite of assessed stocks may change (in the Mediterranean and Black Seas because they do not conduct annual stock assessments for all stocks simultaneously; and in the ICES areas because many stocks are assessed only every 2 or 3 years). This may lead to indicator values changing simply because different stocks are considered each year.  Therefore, the analyses presented here use the results of the latest assessment for each stock from the last 3 years (under the assumption that the most recent assessment is indicative of status until the next assessment is conducted).

Rationale uncertainty

Status of commercial species

The status of commercial species is expressed as the proportion of stocks that fulfils one or more of the GES criteria, as this is the most straightforward method, since it does not require any additional information. However, status can also be expressed as a proportion of catches or a proportion of biomass, depending on data availability. Each method is likely to give different results. The pros and cons of each method should be considered and a best method should be agreed upon.

Similarly, the status of European marine fish and shellfish over time is shown for both GES criteria considered as the annual mean ratio indicator/GES threshold, while, alternatively, the annual mean ratio deviation of the indicator from the GES threshold relative to that threshold can be calculated. This is also likely to give different values, but is unlikely to give rise to different conclusions. The pros and cons of each method should be considered and a best method should be agreed upon.

For compliance with the status assessments in relation to the CFP, the same stocks for the Mediterranean Sea as those used by the STECF are adopted. This implies that, in contrast with the previous assessment, only stocks assessed by the GFCM (hence not the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)) are used for this assessment.

Data sources

Metadata

Topics:

information.png Tags:
, , , , , ,
DPSIR: State
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year

EEA Contact Info

Ana Tejedor
Document Actions