Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermens Association, said: The Marine Conservation Society have reacted far too quickly on this and have not taken into account the current science and projects that are about to be undertaken to shed further information on the stock status of mackerel.
The 2012 scientific advice stated that the mackerel spawning stock biomass was estimated to be 2.7m tonnes whilst the scientific safe biological figure is 2.3m tonnes. ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) forecast that at current exploitation levels the stock wont fall below that level until 2014. The scientific advice states that catches must be reduced and the Coastal States have recognised that and will reduce their quotas by at least 15 per cent.
There is a great deal of uncertainty in the current scientific advice but a number of scientific surveys and projects are about to be undertaken over the next 12 months that will vastly improve the picture of the mackerel stock.
- A scientific meeting of the Nordic survey group (Norway, Iceland and Faroe) will be carried out during February. European scientists and industry groups are invited to this meeting. The leaders of this project are looking to expand the survey and improve the quality of the results from the study which will eventually feed in the scientific assessment.
- The European pelagic industry under the auspices of the Northern Pelagic Working Group are convening a series of meetings with respected pelagic scientists across the North East Atlantic to establish what potential information the industry could contribute to the improvement of data for the mackerel stock assessment. The first meeting will be held on 25 February and will include participants from EU, Norway, Faroe Islands and Iceland.
- The tri-annual egg survey will be carried out during the spring period, which will provide a much improved picture of the current stock status. Results will be released in September.
- ICES will undertake a benchmarking exercise on mackerel during February 2014. This process involves reviewing all available data, including any new information. The output from this exercise is to refine the current assessment method in a bid to improve information regarding the stock, including recruitment, mortality and biomass.