• The Assessment of Irish Pelagic Species

      Molloy, J.; Mullins, E. (Marine Institute, 2001)
      The exploitation of pelagic species, particularly of herring and mackerel has for a long time been one of the most important components of the Irish fishing industry. Fisheries for both species have been responsible for the development of the very successful Irish pelagic fleet and also for the development of a very large processing industry in the Donegal area. The responsibility of assessing the stocks and providing management advice to the main Irish managing authority, The Department of the Marine and Natural Resources, lies with the Marine Fisheries Services Division (MFSD) of the Marine Institute. Both mackerel and herring have been continuously assessed since the 1960’s as a result of programmes carried out under the auspices of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) the international body that co-ordinates research and provides management advice to the EU. However, since the 1980’s both mackerel and herring stocks have been subjected to decreased total allowable catches (TACs) and decreased national quota and tighter management measures as a result of decreases in the stock sizes. This situation has forced the pelagic fleet, particularly that in the North west of Ireland to develop fisheries for alternative species so that it is not totally dependent on mackerel and herring. New fisheries have therefore developed for other pelagic species in recent years. Three species which are now exploited regularly are horse mackerel, (trachurus trachurus), also known as scad .or craig herring; blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou) and Norwegian spring spawning herring (clupea harengus) also known as atlanto-scandian herring. When the fisheries for these species first developed there were no restrictions on catches for horse mackerel and blue whiting while catches on the Norwegian spring spawning herring were subject to an international agreement under which the EU was allowed a quota. None of these three species had previously been assessed by any Irish research project and the amount of scientific information was extremely limited. The international assessments carried out by ICES were based on poor data and had no input from Ireland. Ireland had for a number of years been taking significant catches of some species. The Processing Industry in Donegal were concerned that the lack of adequate biological sampling programmes could lead to inappropriate and inaccurate advice for the management of the stocks. This, it was felt, could have serious effects on the industry and would also demonstrate that Ireland had an irresponsible attitude to the development of these fisheries which was inconsistent with the Precautionary Approach to Fisheries Management. Therefore the Donegal Fish Merchants Association decided to co-operate with the Marine Institute to fund an initial biological sampling programmes on horse mackerel, blue whiting and Norwegian spring spawning herring and to make this data available to the relevant ICES Working Group. The objective of the sampling programme was to collect essential biological data necessary to expand the existing international programmes. In addition it was decided to provide an increased scientific input to existing MFSD assessment programmes such as the mackerel and horse mackerel tagging programmes, the international mackerel and horse mackerel egg surveys and the international blue whiting acoustic surveys. All the collected data has been submitted to the relevant ICES Assessment Working Groups from 1999 to 2001.