V.K. Zilanov
Director of the Fisheries Department of the Murmansk Region,
Murmansk, Russia

Fish resources of the Northeast Atlantic and the adjacent waters, the Baltic, the North, the Norwegian, the Greenland and the Barents Seas, are studied most thoroughly in comparison with other marine areas. For many centuries these resources have been the basic ones in most European countries. Total annual catch taken in the area in the last decade ranged from 8.7 to 11 mill, tons, with an average catch of 10.1 mill.tons. The bulk of product is made up by 12-15 target species. Four of them, herring, blue whiting, capelin and cod, are the most important stocks. Mean annual catches of these species in the last decade were as follows: herring - 1.9 mill, tons, blue whiting - 1.5 mill, tons, capelin - 1.2 mill, tons and cod -988 000 tons.

Until mid-1970s management of the Northeast Atlantic fish resources was based mainly on technical regulations concerning mesh size in trawls, drift nets and other fishing gears, limitations by season and area, control of fishing effort etc. These measures were applied selectively, usually to key commercial stocks. Catch fluctuations in that period, which was the longest one in the history of fisheries management in the Northeast Atlantic, were largely related to natural factors. The main factor was variations in the abundance of major commercial stocks. Catch fluctuations generally followed the stock abundance curve.

The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provided that, in order to conserve and rationally manage fish stocks, fisheries should be based on scientifically substantiated total allowable catches (TAC) so that the stocks are not endangered by overexploitation (Articles 61, 62). There have been also changes in the fisheries strategy.

TAC-based management of the abundant stocks in the Northeast Atlantic and adjacent waters has been continuously increasing since the end of the 20th century, reaching its maximum in 2006. It is at the end of 2006 that TAC limitations for 2007 were established with respect to the last abundant stock, blue whiting of the hybrid Norwegian population. Besides, in the beginning of 2007 an agreement was reached about TAC regulations concerning fishery for another key stock, Atlanto-Scandian spring-spawning herring. Despite the advised TAC, this fishery remained virtually unregulated during the last four years.

On taking these two crucial decisions regarding such important stocks as blue whiting and herring, a new age of fisheries management came to the Northeast Atlantic. All fisheries are now based on TACs advised by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and practically implemented by the nations interested in harvesting these marine stocks. This is a unique management system absent in other marine areas of large-scale fisheries utilising several dozens of target species.

The new management regime in the Northeast Atlantic and adjacent waters brings into challenge the management system itself and fisheries at large.

The two main challenges are as follows:

- Is it rational to use TAC-based management for such species as blue whiting, herring and capelin, which are subjected to significant abundance fluctuations? This may imply that the existing regime can lead to underexploitation of these stocks in high abundance periods.

- ICES is a scientific organisation which was granted a monopoly of working out principles and models of TAC calculations, as well as advice on their practical implementation. This may affect competitiveness of scientific ideas in the mentioned sphere.

The answer to the first challenge can be given if we analyse data on blue whiting fishery for the last 35 years which was not TAC-based. However, management of this fishery allowed catches to be adjusted to natural factors. Catches increased when stock abundance was high and reduced when it was low. In my opinion, TAC-based management of this stock will at the present state of fishery and scientific knowledge, lead to loss of yield.

As for the ICES monopoly of TAC advice for all stocks of the Northeast Atlantic and adjacent waters, comments are not needed here. The answer is obvious. It is enough to analyse ICES advice concerning major fish stocks and compare them with the results of fishery on cod, redfish, herring, capelin, blue whiting and other commercial stocks of the Northeast Atlantic.

It is also important to have in view that in the open Northwest Atlantic beyond the limits of 200-mile zones there are pelagic and deepsea stocks underused by fisheries.



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