Blue whiting quota could increase tenfold
If the ICES recommendations on quotas for Atlanto-Scandian herring and blue whiting are followed next year, there is the real prospect that HB Grandi’s vessels could find themselves with a 17,000 tonne herring quota and a 14,400 tonne blue whiting quota. This represents a drop in the herring allocation of around 3400 tonnes from this year to the next, but a significant increase in blue whiting from just 1400 tonnes to 14,400.
Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson, head of department at HB Grandi’s pelagic division, said that the advice on Atlanto-Scandian herring is a disappointment in the light of the positive reports on the state of the stock this spring and summer. On the other hand, he was very pleased that the blue whiting stock does not appear to be in such a poor condition as ICES had previously believed, and according to the ICES information, it seems clear that the size of the stock had been underestimated during last year’s research.
According to a statement by the Icelandic Marine Research Institute, year classes of Atlanto-Scandian herring were strong in 1998, 1999 and 2002-2004, leading to a growing spawning stock from 2003 onwards up to 2009 when it reached its peak. Year classes since 2004 have all been assessed as being weak, indicating that both catches and the spawning stock will decrease in the coming years. According to the latest estimates, the 2011 spawning stock is thought to be around 8 million tonnes, or 2 million tonnes below its 2009 level.
It appears that research in 2010 did not cover the entire distribution of blue whiting, so that year was left out of estimates of the stock size. The spawning stock is now estimated at 2.40 million tonnes. The TAC for 2012, according to the catch rule, will therefore be 391,000 tonnes. This gives Iceland a 69,000 tonne share (17.60%). In comparison, the 2011 TAC was 40,000 tonnes, giving Iceland a 7000 tonne share.
ICES advice next year calls for a minor reduction in the mackerel fishery with a 586,000 to 639,000 tonne TAC instead of this year’s 592,000 to 646,000 tonne TAC. Estimated catches this year are around 930,000 tonnes, of which the Icelandic government allocated 155,000 tonnes in quotas. The catches landed so far this year are approximately 155,000 tonnes, according to figures from the Directorate of Fisheries.
Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson said that there is a great deal of uncertainty over next year’s mackerel quotas. Efforts are being made to reach agreement on dividing the fishery between coastal states, but if no such agreement can be reached, the responsibility lies with the Minister of Fisheries to decide on catch limits for next year.