MCS welcomes increasing mackerel stocks, but case not closed
Interim advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), suggests that stocks of mackerel may have increased in recent years, but unexpectedly, the body will be making no formal assessment available until next year.
ICES, the independent assessment body of fisheries scientists, have thrown out their traditional data assesment methodology for the fishery because growing uncertainty in catch data before 2005 has greatly altered their perception of the stock.
MCS says the news that stocks may be increasing is welcome, but urges all parties to keep fishing pressure at or below their current levels until a full stock assessment is made available. The news should not be seen as a ‘green light’ to increase fishing pressure on mackerel.
The unexpected move by ICES to delay formal analytical assessment of one of the most important fisheries in Europe demonstrates how vital reliable catch data is. Jim Masters, MCS Aqauculture and Fisheries Manager says: "Fisheries scientists have an enormous task in providing estimates of stock size, particularly for widely distributed stocks like mackerel, yet their estimates will only ever be as good as the data that is made available to them."
Recent catches and preliminary findings from egg surveys show an increasing trend in stock size (by up to 1.7 times); and ICES suggest that the stock has both expanded and moved further north and west into regions so far unreported. There may be a wide range of environmental conditions that have led to this movement of stocks, but whatever the reasons, they are likely to be dynamic, resulting in continuous fluctuations in stock size.
The dynamic nature of the fishery highlights the importance to reach international agreement on respective quota allocations amongst the participating nations that target this stock.
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