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Indicator Assessment

Status of marine fish and shellfish stocks in European seas

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-13-en
  Also known as: CSI 032 , MAR 007
Last modified 15 Feb 2021
29 min read

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    • As a main source of protein, commercial fish stocks and other commercial sea products are renewable resources, which could sustain human needs in the long term — if exploited in an appropriate manner.
    • 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. At least 24-47 % of all stocks meet at least one of two criteria defining the Marine Strategy Framework Directive's 'good environmental status' (GES) in the regions respectively. Meeting these criteria means that the exploitation (i.e. fishing mortality, F) and reproductive capacity of the stocks are compatible with their maximum sustainable yield (MSY). While slightly less than half of all stocks in the region have adequate assessments allowing comparisons with at least one of the GES criteria (83% of these met at least one criterion), these assessed stocks account for approximately 75% of the landings in the NEA and Baltic Sea. Since the early 2000s, better management of fish and shellfish fisheries has contributed to a clear decrease in fishing pressure in these two regional seas, with the average fishing mortality close to FMSY in 2018. 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 on average should remain near FMSY and reproductive capacity should continue to improve towards the objective for healthy fish and shellfish stocks in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea.
    • In contrast, in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea the situation remains critical.  Only six out of 70 stocks (8.6 %) in the Mediterranean Sea and none of the 7 stocks in the Black Sea meet at least one of the GES criteria in these regions. This is mainly due to the prevalence of overfishing and a significant lack of knowledge of the reproductive capacity state of fish and shellfish stocks. Most of the stocks considered in the Mediterranean Sea had adequate assessment to compare fishing mortality with the GES criterion, but few had measures or thresholds of reproductive capacity. In the Black Sea, five of the seven stocks had adequate assessments to evaluate fishing mortality but only one of these also had measures or thresholds for reproductive capacity. It is unlikely that the 2020 policy objective has been met in the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
    • Given this context, the 2020 objective of having healthy commercial fish and shellfish populations is unlikely to have been met in Europe’s seas and further collective action is required.

Landings of commercial fish and shellfish per EU marine region in 2018, and proportion of landings for which stock assessments were conducted between 2015-2019

Note: This figure shows the 2018 landings of commercially exploited fish and shellfish stocks per EU marine region, and the proportions of landings for which stock assessments were conducted in 2015-2019 (not all stocks have annual assessments). See the related Excel File for extra details.

Data source:

Introduction

In Europe, commercial fish stocks and fishing fleets are managed by the Common Fisheries Policy 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 fisheries that target them. To that end, the CFP aims for 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 maximum sustainable yield (MSY). 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 commercial 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. 

Safeguarding healthy commercially exploited fish and shellfish populations[1] is also addressed as one of the 11 descriptors (Descriptor 3) of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) for achieving 'Good Environmental Status' (GES). MSFD Descriptor 3 includes 3 criteria:

(i) the level of fishing pressure, represented by fishing mortality (F),

(ii) the stock’s reproductive capacity, represented by spawning stock biomass (SSB) and

(iii) a healthy age and size distribution of individuals in the populations of commercially exploited fish and shellfish species.

Currently only criteria (i) and (ii) can be assessed, because at present there is no agreed method to assess the criteria (iii). The fact that all of the three GES criterion are not assessed, we refer to 'state' and not to 'status' of commercially exploited fish and shellfish populations in the text.

 EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy Target 4 requiring that fishing becomes sustainable (by 2015) and that, by 2020, fish stocks are healthy, was not achieved. EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030 established new targets, aiming to achieve the sustainable use of marine ecosystems and resources, and help restore the ‘good environmental status' of marine ecosystems by 2030. Some of specific targets are:

- Substantially reduce the negative impacts of commercial fishing and extraction activities on sensitive  species and habitats, including on the seabed to achieve ‘good environmental status’ by 2030;

- Adopt (EC) new action plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems proposed by 2021;

-  Maintain or reduce fishing mortality at or under Maximum Sustainable Yield levels to help achieve a healthy population age and size distribution for fish stocks by 2030;

- Establish fisheries-management measures in all marine protected areas according to clearly defined conservation objectives and on the basis of the best available scientific advice by 2030;

-   Eliminate or reduce the by-catch of species is to a level that allows species recovery and conservation.

 

Assessment

Figures 1-3 provide information on how much progress Europe[2] has made in its robust assessment of, and towards achieving, two of the three criteria of the MSFD’s GES for commercially exploited fish and shellfish stocks, namely for fishing mortality and reproductive capacity

Fig. 1 shows commercial European fish landings by EU Marine Regions in 2018. Within this figure, fish landings are divided into three categories, namely (1) landings for assessed stocks for which adequate information is available to determine whether both the GES criteria for F and SSB are met, (2) landings for assessed stocks for which adequate information is only available to determine whether the GES criteria for F or SSB is met, and (3) assessed stocks for which the available information on F and SSB is insufficient to determine if any of the relevant GES criteria are met. GES criteria refer to two (F and SSB) out of three criteria (the third cannot currently be calculate at the EU level) defining the ‘good environmental status’ (GES) of populations of commercial fish and shellfish species. GES is the objective of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive and needed to be achieved in 2020. The stated two GES criteria are met when F and SSB are compatible with having fish/shellfish population biomass levels above those capable of producing maximum sustainable yield (MSY). (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 the landings (71%) are from stocks for which their state could be assessed against at least for one GES criterion. However, there are distinct regional differences. Figure1 shows that an assessment of state is only possible for 41% of total landings from the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, compared with 77% of those from the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea.

Therefore, the EU still faces the challenges of the need to:

(i) develop the third criteria addressing age and size distribution of individuals in the populations of commercially exploited fish and shellfish species;

(ii) assess more stocks to obtain better information to inform GES assessments.

 

 

 

[1] Commercially exploited populations applies 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)

[2] Figures 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, and widely distributed stocks. For the Mediterranean (three regions: Eastern, Central and Western) and Black Sea numbers in the figures and the text are the same.

 

State of the assessed European commercial fish and shellfish stocks in relation to the Good Environmental Status criteria for fishing mortality and reproductive capacity per EU marine region in 2018

Note: This figure shows the state of the assessed commercially exploited fish and shellfish stocks per EU marine region, for which assessments were conducted in 2015-2019 (not all stocks have annual assessments). Majority of data is from 2018.

Data source:

Fig. 2 shows the state of the assessed European fish and shellfish stocks in relation to Good Environmental Status (GES) per EU Marine Region in 2015-2018. A distinction is made between the (1) stocks meeting both the GES criteria for F and SSB being at MSY, (2)  stocks meeting only one of the GES criteria, either F or SSB being at MSY and (3) stocks not meeting any of the GES criteria for F and SSB are not at MSY. Stocks are divided in relation to available information and presented in this figure as:  Z, total number of stocks; Y, total number of assessed stocks; and X, number of stocks for which adequate information is available for assessment on the basis of these two GES criteria (F and SSB) in relation to MSY. 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. No total number of stocks is given for the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, since these are not biologically defined in the region. (see the Methodology section for information on how GES is determined). This assessment does not include the third GES criterion on age and size structure of the populations as this cannot be assessed at present (see the Methodology section for information on how GES is determined). 

The latest available information shows that, around 36 % of the assessed commercially exploited fish and shellfish stocks in Europe’s seas are not in good state  based on  both fishing mortality and reproductive capacity criteria, or in cases where only one criteria was available, this is not in good state.  Another 37 % of the stocks met at least one of the criteria for GES. For the remaining assessed stocks there was not enough information to determine GES against either of the criteria. There are strong regional differences though, with approximately 50 % of the assessed commercial fish and shellfish stocks in the North-East Atlantic ocean and the Baltic Sea meet at least one of the two GES criteria (fishing mortality and reproductive capacity), while only 10.5 % are not in good state according to both of these criteria. The state of commercial fish and shellfish species is especially critical in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea where only 7.8 % of assessed units are in good state based on a single criterion (six out of 70 (8.6 %) in the Mediterranean Sea and none out of 7  in the Black Sea), and none are in good state based on both the level of fishing mortality and their reproductive capacity.

Fig. 3 shows the trend in the state of stock assessments and progress made in 'Good Environmental Status' assessment in a) the North-East Atlantic and Baltic Sea between 1945 and 2018; b) Mediterranean and Black Sea between 2003 and 2017.

For fishing mortality, a value greater than 1 (F > FMSY) indicates that exploitation exceeds the level that would produce the maximum yield, and is likely less sustainable in the long term.

For the North-East Atlantic and Baltic Sea, the figure is based on up to 78 stocks assessed in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea. For most of these 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 less sustainable in the long term. For reproductive capacity, the basis of the value of MSY Btrigger differs by stock, either Bpa (a stock state 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 regards 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 has reduced to approximately FMSY in 2018. The high past exploitation 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 TACs and many decommissioning projects that 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, for which the assessment is based on many stocks and therefore any effect caused by the addition (or removal) of assessed stocks has become relatively minor. Therefore, the conclusions of an overall reduction in fishing mortality and the subsequent recovery of reproductive capacity are expected to be robust.

For the Mediterranean and Black seas, the figure is based on 41 assessment units for reproductive capacity and 44 assessment units for F. In the Mediterranean Sea (and Black Sea) there is limited data on the biomass of the stocks and the most common indicator of stock state is F/FMSY (level of exploitation). 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 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 been declining gradually since 2011. Reproductive capacity likewise remained fairly stable, with some improvements over the last five years as exploitation has decreased.

 

Main findings

Environmental ambitions and objectives are clearly strong policy drivers for fishery management in Europe. 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 analyzed above, suggests that targeted policy actions and committed management efforts can protect and/or help restore stocks, and thus help preserve ecosystem integrity  in the areas, where policies are implemented in a consistent way.

Fisheries management efforts are clear examples of positive actions and how EU policies can work to reverse the trends of some 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 near to FMSY in 2018. 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 towards the 2020 objective for healthy fish and shellfish stocks in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea.

In contrast, there is no clear sign of improvement in relation to GES criteria in the Mediterranean Sea or Black Sea, where of 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 Sea, so it is not possible to track the development towards sustainable reproductive capacity. However, in the last 5 years there are signs of an increase in biomass (compared to 2003 levels).  Likewise, though F remains well above FMSY on average, recent years have seen progress on reducing the gap to FMSY. However, these figures still indicate that urgent action is needed and success will depend on the availability and quality of marine information and the commitment to implement the scientific advice and 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. Multiannual management plans (COM/2020/377) for Mediterranean and the Black Seas were adopted in 2020, aiming to further reduce the fishing effort in the area.

A major step change [3] is required to reduce both the proportion of total allowable catches (TACs) set above scientific recommendations and the number of TACs set without scientific recommendations since this contravenes opportunities for earlier stock recovery. Strong management decisions and transparent decision-making processes are required if TACs are to be brought in line with scientific advice (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 multiple 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, identifying novel links and drivers of change in order to prevent non-obvious problems that could occur. 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.

 

[3] Fisheries management efforts include TACs (Totally Allowable Catches), effort control, access restrictions and technical regulations. These measures can be packaged in multi-annual plans (MAPs) in order to allow some stability of the industry, whilst continuing to ensure the sustainability of the fisheries. Furthermore, the Commission introduced a discard plan, which can lead to a decreased fisheries pressure on juveniles as fish previously banned from being landed now have to be landed and are counted towards the TAC.


 

 

Supporting information

Indicator definition

The indicators track 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).

State of marine fish and shellfish stocks

The MSFD requires 'Good Environmental Status' 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. Stocks should be: (1) exploited sustainably consistent with high long-term yields, (2) have full reproductive capacity in order to maintain stock biomass, and (3) the proportion of older and larger fish/shellfish should be maintained (or increased) being 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. If values for F and FMSY are available from a stock assessment, the stock is considered to have met the GES criterion if F ≤ FMSY. For some ICES stocks without stock assessments, proxy methods exist to estimate the status of F in relation to FMSY by using catch length and other available biological information.
  • Reproductive capacity: in areas assessed by the ICES, the criterion for sustainable reproductive capacity (SSB > SSBMSY) has been modified, for pragmatic reasons, to SSB > MSY Btrigger. Spawning stock biomass (SSB) is consistently provided as part of ICES stock assessments, i.e. of the North-East Atlantic and Baltic Sea, but not, for the most part, by STECF assessments, 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 of SSB and a good proxy for SSBMSY (i.e. MSY Btrigger) are available from a stock assessment, and the stock is considered to have met the GES criterion if SSB > SSBMSY (or 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 in relation to FMSY;
  • SSB: status assessed based only on SSB in relation to SSBMSY (or some proxy, i.e. MSY Btrigger);
  • F & SSB: status assessed based on both F and SSB.

Due to the ongoing discussions of the criteria integration rules for Descriptor 3, the stocks are classified as:

  • Stocks meeting both the available GES criteria for F and SSB
  •  Stocks meeting only one of the available GES criteria, i.e. either F or SSB criteria are met
  •  Stocks not meeting any of the available GES criteria, i.e. neither F nor SSB criteria are met

 For those stocks for which adequate information is available to determine GES for 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 are not in good status or data is only available for one criteria and it is in good status); and (3) stocks not in good status (either because one of the two criteria are not in good status or data is only available for one criteria and it is not in good status).

 

Total landing

Landings information for the North-East Atlantic and the Baltic Sea is based on the Stock Assessment Graphs landings data for the assessed stocks, and in the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Official Nominal Catches, 2006-2018 dataset in the case of unassessed stocks/landings. Fisheries nominal catch statistics are reported annually by the national offices. In cooperation with Eurostat and FAO, ICES prepares and publishes the Official Nominal Catch statistics dataset for the Northeast Atlantic (FAO major fishing area 27). SAG catches are used whenever available, as these take discards and potential area reporting issues into account, neither of which are reflected in the nominal catches. Landings information for the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea is based on the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) capture production dataset For the Mediterranean and Black Sea, the figure is based on 2018 landings data. In this case, it was not possible to use landings data from the assessments as these refer to GSAs which are not specified in the FAO capture production dataset, divided in larger aggregation areas.

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.

 

Stock

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 northeast Atlantic is currently considered to form sixteen 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 Sea, 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. In the Mediterranean, assessments can refer to several stocks of the same species, but these stocks remain separate management and functional units.

 

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 are expressed as the proportion of the landings of assessed fish and shellfish stocks or the proportion of 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 198 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 stock

Currently, the two criteria used to determine the status of commercial fish stocks are that they are:

  • exploited sustainably, consistent with high long-term yields;
  • have full reproductive capacity.

F and SSB, in combination with MSY-based reference values, are the most appropriate metrics for these two criteria. The metrics used for F and SSB may differ between stocks. Not all stocks can be assessed for both metrics.

 

Total landings in MSFD (sub-)regio

Stocks are assigned to an MSFD ecoregion based on the ICES subareas and divisions mentioned in the Stocks sub-section of the Indicator description. Note that the MSFD regions assigned to fish stocks are not conclusive and may change after further consultation. Under the MSFD, individual stocks may be considered in more than one ecoregion. However, for this analysis stocks are assigned to one ecoregion, considered to be most important to the stock and fishery. ICES is presently developing a system of assigning stocks to appropriate ecoregions based on distribution and migration patterns as well as location of landings.

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 regions based on area. The total landings for non-assessed stocks by ecoregion is 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, or (for some stocks assessed by ICES) proxy methods exist to determine the status. Overall numbers of stocks are also indicated (except for in the Mediterranean and Black Seas). Therefore for each region, four different categories are used to describe the degree of fulfillment of MSFD criteria for GES:

  • Stocks meeting both the available GES criteria for F and SSB
  • Stocks meeting only one of the available GES criteria, i.e. either F or SSB criteria are met
  • Stocks not meeting any of the available GES criteria, i.e. neither F nor SSB criteria are met
  • Stocks for which no information is available to assess F and SSB against GES criteria.

 

Mediterranean and Black Seas

Proportion of assessed stocks

In the Mediterranean and Black Sea stocks are mostly defined by management area because of a lack of biological knowledge. As such, they are referred to as ‘assessment units’ in this report to distinguish them from biologically defined stocks and no total number of stocks per region is reported. Assessment units in the Mediterranean Sea were assessed based on the assessments available through the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for fisheries (STECF), published in 2017-2019, and those in the Black Sea were based on the assessments facilitated by GFCM, performed between 2016 and 2018. As assessments are carried out in a multiannual cycle, different assessment units are included in each annual working group report. 

Initially, the two criteria used to determine the status of commercial fish stocks are:

  • exploited sustainably, consistent with high long-term yields;
  • have 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 assessment units. 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 more 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 specie

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, the status can also be expressed as the proportion of catches or the proportion of biomass, depending on data availability. Each method is likely to give different results.

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.

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 to 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

Other info

DPSIR: State
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 032
  • MAR 007
Frequency of updates
Updates are scheduled once per year
EEA Contact Info info@eea.europa.eu

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Temporal coverage

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