Stock Advice

Current Stock Status

Below is a summary of the status of Scotland’s key pelagic stocks from information provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). All stocks and their catch levels are carefully managed on an annual basis through close international agreement. The dynamic nature of the marine environment means that stocks can undergo variations from year to year for natural reasons, for example poor breeding seasons or survival of juveniles.

NORTH SEA HERRING

The Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) is above the level required to ensure Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) and the fishing mortality is less than the MSY trigger-point. Therefore the stock is being harvested sustainably. The stock is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

WEST OF SCOTLAND HERRING

The stock was previously classed as two different stocks, one in the northern sector the other in the southern part of the zone. But now classed as one, the Spawning Stock Biomass has been declining since 2004, despite fishing mortality being below the required level to ensure Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). A zero catch is recommended for 2017, although the fishing industry is engaged in research projects to ascertain an accurate status of the stock, given evidence that the northern stock is in much better shape than the southern one. The stock is part of the Marine Stewardship Council programme.

ATLANTO SCANDIAN HERRING

Following the appearance of strong year classes in 1999–2002, the spawning-stock biomass (SSB) reached its highest estimated level in the late 2000s. The SSB then declined rapidly over two years because of high natural mortality. Fishing mortality has been increasing after being at low levels but is still below Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) trigger-point. The stock is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

MACKEREL

The Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) is estimated to have increased since the early 2000s and has been above the required level to ensure Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) since 2009. The Fishing mortality has been declining since the mid-2000s, but remains above the level for MSY. The recruitment to the stock shows an increasing trend since the late 1990s with two large year classes (2002 and 2006). The 2011 year class is estimated to be well above average (third in magnitude since 1990), in contrast recruitment for 2013 appears to be the lowest since 2003. The stock is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

BLUE WHITING

Spawning-stock biomass (SSB) increased from 2010 to 2014 and is above the level to ensure Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). Fishing mortality has increased from a historical low in 2011 to above the MSY trigger level. Recent recruitments are estimated above average. Additional survey information indicates recruitment above average in 2014 and 2015.  The stock is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

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