Fish and Shellfish Stocks: 2015 Edition

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)

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.

2015 position: UK share 2,079 tonnes

Last Year: 976 tonnes

Landed into Scotland in 2013: 596 tonnes

Value for 2013: £969,001


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 two. 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.

Spawning Grounds and 2013 Distribution of Landings by Scottish Vessels (tonnes)

ICES Advice on Management

Information Source: ICES advice 2014

Quoted text in italics.

Haddock Stocks - Rockall

MSY and precautionary approach reference points



MSY Approach

MSY Btrigger

9,000 t



Precautionary Approach


6,000 t


9,000 t


Not defined



State of stock and advice

  • Fishing mortality has decreased over time and for 2013 was estimated at 0.246 this means that nearly 21.8%, by number, of all fish between 2 and 5 years of age were caught.
  • The spawning-stock biomass increased up to 2008 as a result of the 2001 and 2005 year classes but has decreased constantly since then. SSB in 2013 and 2014 is below Blim. For 2014 it was estimated to be around 2,743 tonnes,
  • Fishing mortality is below the precautionary approach limit and the level which is consistent with achieving maximum sustainable yield ( F2013< F MSY).

ICES advises on the basis of the MSY approach that catches should be no more than 4310 t in 2015. If discard rates (at age) do not change from the average of the last eight years (2006-2013), this implies landings of no more than 2930 t.Further management measures should be introduced to reduce the discards, catches of small haddock, and to protect the incoming recruitment in 2013.

A management plan is under development and was evaluated by ICES in 2013. ICES concluded that a maximum F value of 0.2 in the HCR was required to ensure consistency with the precautionary approach under the low recruitment conditions observed since 2004.

Discards significantly increased in 2013 and are expected to remain high in 2014 as a consequence of the strong 2012 year class. Further technical measures to reduce bycatch discarding of the recruiting year classes should be considered. These might include increasing the mesh size in the square mesh panels and/or increasing the mesh size in gadoid fisheries catching haddock, as well as considerations on minimum landing size.

The basis for the assessment has not changed from last year: the MSY approach.

Management outcomes for 2015

In December 2014 at the Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels, the EU Total Allowable Catch for Rockall (VIb, XII and XIV) haddock was set at 2,580 tonnes, with the UK quota for 2015 at 2,079 tonnes.


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