The stock size is above MSY Bescapement. Recruitment was well above average in 2009, very low in 2010 and 2011, and very high in 2012. Fishing mortality has been lower than the natural mortality for this stock and has decreased in recent years to well below the long-term average F (0.6). The status of the stock is mainly determined by natural processes and recruitment.
About the fishery
During the 1960s, a significant small meshed fishery developed for Norway pout in the northern North Sea, with peak landings of 740 000 tons in 1974. Since the early 1980s, annual landings fluctuated around 200 000 tons. In recent years, landings have decreased and varied from 26 000 tons in 2002 to 3200 tons in 2011. in 2013 the Norwegian quota is 137 000 tons. This is based on advice from ICES.
The fishery is mainly carried out by Danish and Norwegian vessels using small-mesh trawls in the north-western North Sea.
Management plans and technical regulations of the fishery
No specific management objectives are known to ICES for this stock. Due to the short-lived nature of this species a preliminary TAC is set every year, which is updated on the basis of advice in the first half of the year (using the escapement management strategy approach).
ICES states that there is a need to ensure that the stock remains high enough to provide food for a variety of predator species.
In order to reduce by-catches of immature round fish, the “Norway Pout Box” north-east of Scotland was introduced in 1977 where fisheries with small-meshed trawls were banned.
In the Norwegian economic zone, the Patch Bank was closed permanently in 2002, and in 2008 the fishing season was restricted. In the Norwegian zone, mesh size limitations are 16 to 80 mm, and individual landings must contain less than 20 per cent by-catch of cod, haddock and saithe. During the last 10 years, by-catches of cod, haddock and saithe in the combined Norwegian fishery for Norway pout and blue whiting have been low.
Norway pout is a small, short-lived gadoid species, which rarely gets older than five years. It is distributed from the west of Ireland to Kattegat and from the North Sea to the Barents Sea. Norway pout is an important food source for other species. Spawning in the North Sea takes place in the area between Shetland and Norway. Around 10 percent reaches maturity already at one year of age, however, most individuals reach maturity at the age of two. Recruitment in Norway pout is highly variable and influences the spawning stock biomass and total stock biomass rapidly, due to the short life span of the species. Norway pout is important prey for other species. Hence, the stock size is heavily influenced by inter-annual variability in recruitment and predation.