13.1. The Delegations noted that according to the ICES MSY approach catches in 2022 should be no more than 14,276 tonnes. This represents a decrease of 3.2% in the advice compared to 2021. ICES estimates that discards and below minimum size (BMS) landings are at 19.5% of total catch (in weight) in 2020. ICES projects discard rates of 23% of total catch (by weight) in 2021.
13.2. The Delegations noted that, as stated in Annex 6 of the ICES Working Group on the Assessment of Demersal Stocks in the North Sea and Skagerrak (WGNSSK) report, absolute landings data for 2021 for quarters 1-2 and quarters 1-3 were made available by the Parties for a potential North Sea cod autumn forecast. ICES used these landings data to predict landings and catches for the whole year and these predictions were compared to the intermediate year assumptions of the May forecasts. The outcome of this analysis indicates that the predicted TAC overshoot in 2021 is up to 22% and that that the realised TAC overshoot for 2021 is unlikely to be as high as the 71% underlying the published ICES advice.
13.3. If the reopening protocol had been triggered for North Sea cod by the International Bottom Trawl Survey (IBTS) Q3 2021 data, the Parties’ provisional 2021 landings data would have been used to update the interim year fishing mortality assumption. The Delegations noted that the UK and Norway submitted a joint ICES Technical Service Request to better understand the impact of the 2021 quarters 1-2 and quarters 1-3 landings data on the advice for the stock for 2022 given the reopening protocol was not triggered.
13.4. The Delegations agreed to establish a TAC for 2022 in ICES Subarea 4 (North Sea), Division 7.d (Eastern Channel), and Subdivision 20 (Skagerrak) of 15,911 tonnes. This represents a rollover of the TAC in 2021.
13.5. The resulting TAC for Subarea 4 is 13,246 tonnes (83.25%), the TAC for Subdivision 20 is 1,893 tonnes (11.90%), and the TAC for Division 7.d is 772 tonnes (4.85%).
13.6. The Delegations agreed to continue the closures of spawning grounds as described in Annex IV.
13.7. The Norwegian Delegation explained that three areas had been closed in the southeast part of the Norwegian Economic Zone from 15 September to 31 December 2021 in order to protect juveniles and small cod. The aim is to continue such closures in 2022. The Delegation also informed the other Parties that an Institute of Marine Research (IMR) vessel collected additional samples within and close to these areas as an add on to the IBTS Q3 survey in August 2021. IMR’s conclusion is that the results of the survey support that the locations of the closed areas are appropriate.
13.8. The UK Delegation confirmed that a National Cod Avoidance Plan was still active in UK waters. The plan continues to cover a variety of measures in different areas of UK waters of the North Sea. The measures include restrictions on mesh size on nets, alongside real time closures and real time reporting to protect high abundances of cod of all ages. These are in addition to existing seasonal closures in UK waters for the protection of spawning aggregations of cod.
13.9. The EU Delegation explained that, given the lack of recovery and continued high levels of fishing mortality of this important stock, it intends to continue with the cod avoidance measures introduced in 2020 and 2021 again in 2022. These measures include specific selectivity measures, area closures for protection of spawning aggregations of cod as well as the possibility for member states to introduce National Cod Avoidance Plans. Such plans will be assessed by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries. In addition, the European Union explained that specific actions on control have been undertaken since 2020 including additional efforts on last haul evaluations and the triggering of real time closures and the procedures for the monitoring of these closures.
13.10. The Delegations noted the terms of reference for the North Sea Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Working Group (Annex V) which seeks to enhance the control of the cod and cod-related fisheries in the North Sea to ensure compliance with technical measures and catch registration obligations.
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