Fish and Shellfish Stocks: 2013

Information on the state of fish and shellfish stocks of commercial importance to the Scottish fleet, inclduing Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for each stock.

Haddock Stocks - Rockall (VIb, XII and XIV)

Haddock are distributed throughout the Rockall Bank area and can be found at depths down to 600m, although they are mainly concentrated in the 150 to 300m depth range. Juvenile haddock are mainly found in the shallower waters of the central Bank, at depths less than 180m. There is strong evidence to suggest that Rockall haddock form a separate stock from those found on the continental shelf of the British Isles. The northward flowing surface current between Rockall and the Hebrides may act as a barrier preventing eggs and larvae reaching Rockall from the east or southeast. This hypothesis is supported by tagging studies showing that no haddock tagged from other stocks have been recovered from Rockall.

The haddock found on the Bank have much slower growth rates and a smaller size at age than haddock from other areas. Sampling information by MSS observers has also shown that over 80% of Rockall haddock are sexually mature at age 2. The first spawning of a newly matured female produces around 80,000 eggs, with this number increasing as the fish gets older. Spawning takes place between March and May, with the eggs being released in batches. The eggs and larvae are distributed in the upper water column, and drift north-easterly. Once the juveniles reach 5-10 cm in length they gradually migrate and settle on the sea bottom.

Rockall haddock eat a variety of foods, preferring benthic organisms, with fish and detritus becoming an increasing part of the diet during periods of large stock size. The fish feed preferentially during the summer and autumn, putting on weight until the spawning period when the intensity of feeding significantly decreases.

Rockall haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus), by weight, is the most abundant demersal species landed from this area. It is exploited by two main fleets: Russian vessels deploying small mesh nets (40-70 mm), and the European fleet using demersal trawl gear with a cod-end mesh of 120 mm and above.

2013 position : UK share 798 tonnes
Last Year : 2,660 tonnes
Landed into
Scotland in 2011 : 1,738 tonnes
Value for 2011 : £2.7 million

Left: Spawning Grounds. Right: 2010 Distribution of Landings by Scottish Vessels (Tonnes).

ICES Advice on Management

Information Source: ICES advice 2012 ( Quoted text in italics.

Landings, Recruitment (age 1), Fish mortality and Spawning Stock Biomass

MSY and precautionary approach reference points

Type Value
MSY Approach MSY B trigger 9,000 t
F MSY 0.3
Precautionary Approach B lim 6,000 t
B pa 9,000 t
F lim Not defined
F pa 0.4

State of stock and advice

  • Fishing mortality has decreased over time and for 2011 was estimated at 0.12: this means that nearly 12%, by number, of all fish between 2 and 5 years of age were caught.
  • The spawning stock biomass has increased in recent years and has been above B pa (and MSY B trigger) since 2003. For 2012 it was estimated to be around 10,654 tonnes.
  • Fishing mortality and biomass are below and above, respectively, the precautionary approach limits and the level which is consistent with achieving maximum sustainable yield ( F 2011< F MSY).

The advice is in accordance with the MSY approach which states that there should be no directed fisheries and that bycatch and discards should be minimized in 2013. Due to extremely low recruitment in recent years, SSB is predicted to decrease strongly and be below B lim in 2013 and 2014.

The EU and the Russian Federation have developed a management plan for this stock that is currently being evaluated by ICES. For the time being, the Russian fleet is not limited by any quota regulation, although in recent years very few Russian vessels have fished at Rockall.

Considering the extremely low recruitment since 2007 and that SSB will be below MSY B trigger in 2014 for all catch scenarios, it is not possible to identify any non-zero catch which would be compatible with the MSY approach. Also, bycatches including discards of haddock in all fisheries in Division VIb should be reduced to the lowest possible level. Further management measures should be introduced to reduce discarding of small haddock in order to maximize their contribution to future yield and SSB.

Management outcomes for 2013
At the December 2012 meeting in Brussels, the Council of Ministers decided that the international Total Allowable Catch for Rockall (VIb, XII and XIV) haddock should be 990 tonnes. The UK quota for 2013 is set at 798 tonnes.


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