For the North East Arctic saithe Norway sets the TAC as a unilateral quota after advices from ICES and the Institute of Marine Research. For the North Sea saithe EU and Norway have adopted a management plan for setting annual total allowable catch.
Stock status and setting of quotas for North-East Arctic saithe
ICES classifies the stock as having full reproductive capacity and to be harvested with sustainability. Catches are stable and have, since 1995, been below the precautionary limit.
Norway sets the TAC as a unilateral quota after advices from ICES and the Institute of Marine Research. When the TAC is set, Norway shares part of the quota with other countries.
Management and technical regulations of the fishery
ICES has evaluated a proposed Harvest Control Rule (HCR) for setting the annual fishing quota (TAC) for Northeast Arctic saithe and concluded that it is consistent with the precautionary approach. ICES therefore recommends that the proposed and evaluated HCR be implemented and advises according to this plan.
By-catches of saithe in other fisheries are covered by the total saithe quota, and by-catches of other commercial species in the saithe fisheries are landed and counted against the quota for each species. Due to the use of sorting grids and large meshes, by-catches of non-commercial species are low, and mainly consist of dab, sharks and skates. By-catches of sea mammals and birds are rare.
In addition to quota regulations there are regulations aiming at protecting immature fish. Minimum catching size is 45 cm in Norwegian waters for all gears except for the purse seine, where the minimum catching size is 42 cm north of Lofoten, 40 cm between Lofoten and 62º N and 35 cm for the first 3000 tons between 65º 30’ N and 62º N). There will probably be some changes in the minimum catching size form 2014. Other protective measures are the use of sorting grid with minimum bar spacing in ground fish trawl, and minimum mesh size in trawl, Danish seine and gill net. If catches contain more than a certain percentage of undersized fish (30 per cent for purse seine, 15 per cent for other gears), the particular fishing ground is temporarily closed. Discarding of commercial species is not allowed.
The North-East Arctic saithe is distributed along the coast of Norway and Russia from the Kola Peninsula southwestwards to 62º N. Age at maturity is five to seven years and the main spawning takes place at the coastal banks from Lofoten to the North Sea around February when the temperature is between 6 to 10º C. The larvae drift northwards, settle in inshore areas and migrate to the coastal areas at age two to four.
About the fishery
Over the last 51 years average annual catch has been 163 000 tons. In the Norwegian fishery, which at present accounts for more than 90 per cent of the landings, various gears are used, while other nations mainly use bottom trawl. Total landings (2011) in 2011 was 157 000 tons (43% trawl, 29% purse-seine, 20% gillnet, and 8% other gear types). Discards are considered to be low. On average over the last ten years about 40 per cent of the Norwegian catch originates from bottom trawl, 25 per cent from purse seine, 20 per cent from gill net and 15 per cent from other conventional gears (long line, Danish seine and hand line). The gill net fishery is most intense during winter, purse seine in the summer months while the trawl fishery takes place more evenly all year around.
North Sea saithe
ICES classifies the stock as having full reproductive capacity and the harvest of North Sea saithe is sustainable.
EU and Norway have adopted a management plan for setting annual total allowable catch for saithe in the North Sea. ICES has evaluated the plan and concluded that it is in agreement with the Precautionary Approach. This plan was used for the first time in 2006 and was renewed in 2008. There has been a new Joint EU–Norway request to ICES on options to revise the Long-Term Management Plan for saithe in the North Sea. This was released in november 2012.
Over the last years, average annual catch has been 151 000 tons. Saithe in the North Sea are mainly taken in a directed trawl fishery in deep water near the Northern Shelf Edge and the Norwegian Deeps. The majority of the catches are taken by Norwegian, French and German trawlers. The catch in 2011 was 97 000 tons, of which approximately 95% was taken by bottom trawl and 5% by other gears. Discards are low.
In Norwegian waters, minimum catching size is 32 cm, and minimum mesh size in trawl and Danish seine is 120 mm. Discarding of commercial species is not allowed in Norway. In EU waters, minimum landing size is 35 cm and minimum mesh size 110 mm.
There is no minimum catching size in EU waters. As a result, fishers in EU waters have discarded undersized fish and over quota fish.