North Sea Code avoidance plan
This plan seeks to address two key issues: 1) to support recovery of the North Sea cod stock and, 2) to support the fishing industry to manage their quota in line with the reduced TAC set in 2020.
Real Times Closures (RTCs) and Real Time Reporting (RTR) in particular will help manage quota issues for the fleet.
This plan mainly focuses on spatial measures to avoid catching an abundance of cod. Whilst spatial measures are difficult to quantify, our previous experience of using spatial measures such as RTCs (particularly during the Cod Recovery Plan) demonstrates that such measures can have an observable effect on cod mortality and biomass.
1. Spawning closures
The UK worked alongside EU Member States and Norway to establish seasonal closures which came into effect on 01 January 2020 and these measures remain in place.
Two spawning closures are currently in place in English waters and these closures remain in place.
A downloadable version of a map (for illustrative purposes only) of these closures is available at the foot of this page.
1.1 Features of the Spawning scheme
- As per current closures. See the map (for illustrative purposes only).
2. Real Time Closures (RTCs)
RTCs can be used to protect high abundances of recruited cod of all ages. In contrast with planned seasonal closures which assume a constant distribution over time, RTCs have the potential advantage of being responsive to changes in the actual distribution of fish.
2.1 Features of the RTC scheme:
- The application of RTCs for significant cod aggregations regardless of age class.
- RTCs should apply to all gear types excluding pelagic.
- RTCs are not to be established within 12nm of the coast.
- Each RTC should remain closed for 21 days, with an option to run consecutively.
- RTCs should be 15nm by 15nm in size
- The midpoint of tow will be used to establish the RTC, as agreed with Master of fishing vessel and then verified by track on plotter.
- Limit to 6 RTCs in place at any one time
- Haul by haul reporting
- RTCs will only be in operation when the main spawning closures are not. This means that RTCs will not be in operation from January to March, but can operate when the Foula Deeps closure is in place (November to December) and the Stanhope Ground (which runs until April).
- We are currently considering a request for a derogation for the squid fishery and will amend guidance as needed in 2021.
2.2 Trigger mechanism:
- RTCs to be triggered by inspection at sea.
- At the Boarding Officer’s discretion, and in discussion with the Skipper, 5 boxes of catch (unsorted, preferably direct from the hopper) will be inspected to determine the catch composition (this is based on volumetrics only, no weighing at sea).
- If the cod present in the catch is 20% or more (i.e. 1 box) of the overall weight then officers should conduct a count.
- Based on the entire haul, if the number of cod caught per hour, regardless of size, is 80 or more, then the area should be closed.
- Trigger thresholds are to be developed with feedback mechanisms to allow for necessary adjustments.
- The Commanding Officer of the Marine Protection Vessel will be designated with the overall responsibility of declaring a RTC.
- Information shall then be transmitted to UK FMC so that the RTC can be communicated to the whole fleet as soon as possible. The UKFMC will issue an email notification to vessels, other FMCs (OMS/EFCA) and vessels in the vicinity of the RTC will be contacted directly. An email notification will be issued to FMAC, who will be asked to pass it on to their members, and details will be put on the Marine Scotland website as quickly as possible. The efficacy of communications will be kept under review.
3. Real Time Reporting (RTR)
3.1 Features of the scheme:
- In addition to RTCs, we will put in place a system of RTR, to enable high abundance of cod to be reported, shared with vessels fishing in the affected area, and to support a system of move on.
- The RTR scheme will run concurrently to the RTC scheme.
- The UKFMC will be the contact point for Skippers who want to make a report of abundance. Skippers will use their own knowledge in order to determine abundance.
o Abundance and Location (latitude and longitude) to be reported to UK FMC
o “Move on” to a minimum of 15 nm radius once notified
- Information shall be transmitted to UK FMC so “move on” can be communicated to the whole fleet as soon as possible. The UKFMC will issue an email notification to vessels, other FMCs (OMS/EFCA) and vessels in the vicinity of the RTR will be contacted directly. An email notification will be issued to FMAC, who will be asked to pass it on to their members, and details will be put on the Marine Scotland website as quickly as possible. The efficacy of communications will be kept under review.
- Skippers will be able to make a judgement on whether they are able to continue in the area without catching cod.
- Details of the RTR / move on advice will remain on the Marine Scotland website for 21 days.
Fisheries Monitoring Centre (UKFMC) contact details
Telephone: +44(0)131 271 9700
Fax: +44(0)131 244 6471
4. Selectivity - these measures currently apply to Scottish waters only
4.1 Features of the fish and mud areas:
- Use a minimum gear size of 120mm in fish areas
- Using a gear size of less than 120mm in mud areas will be permitted on the basis that mud areas are primarily Nephrops grounds.
A downloadable version of the mud areas map (for illustrative purposes only) is avilable at the foot of the page.
A downloadable document with the co-ordinates, for plotting the "mud" areas, is available at the foot of the page.
4.2 Additional selectivity:
- At this point the use of selectivity devices will not be mandated (in addition to those already in place). However, vessels are reminded that there are a range of selective gears available, in particular those developed recently in response to previous cod avoidance plans which can be used.
- Of particular use may be:
i. Orkney trawl
ii. 600mm belly panel
iii. 135mm cod end
iv. 300mm SMP
It should be noted that the fish / mud areas will increase the mesh size being used when targeting fish to 120mm baseline, which supports increased selectivity outside of Nephrops grounds.
Marine Scotland will not mandate the use of REM at this time, however we are very open to REM as a management tool and will address this option in the Future Fisheries Management.
The use of REM does not exempt vessels from the measures within this plan, however there will be a derogation for vessels operating under the North Sea Fully Documented Fisheries (FDF) scheme to access RTCs in English waters.
Marine Scotland has committed to keep the NCAP and its communications under review and engage with FMAC.
The technical measures and sea area exemptions will be incorporated into fishing licences with effect from 1 January 2021.
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- First published
- 25 December 2020
- Last updated
- 2 February 2024
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