North Sea herring fishery in line for major cut –

North Sea herring fishery in line for major cut Published:  03 April, 2007

AN industry leader warned today that the North Sea herring fishery could face a major cut back next year following another year of poor recruitment to the key stock.

Iain MacSween, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation and also Chairman of the Pelagic Regional Advisory Council told FISHupdate that initial ICES advice showed that recruitment to the stock had fallen for the fifth consecutive year.

“There are signs that this could be the poorest recruitment for 30 years, but the strange thing is that no one can understand why this is the case.”

He said that eggs were being laid, the larvae was then heading out but were not subsequently recruiting as young fish.

“It looks as if we could be talking about a significant reduction in the North Sea total allowable catch next year,” he said.

“The consensus in the scientific community appears to be that this is not due to over-fishing but there is no apparent explanation as to why larvae are not surviving.

“When you bear in mind that we have already had to absorb a 25% cut in the North Sea TAC for this year, this is a serious situation as herring represents the second leg of the pelagic fishery.”

Mr MacSween said there had always been the optimistic expectation that herring recruitment would eventually come right, but this had not happened and the fresh worries had obvious implications not only for catchers but also for the processing sector.

As Mr MacSween underlined the pelagic sector will find this situation very hard to deal with as they are already labouring under greatly curtailed pelagic seasons.

For the catchers, it represents an additional burden in the wake of the heavy payback penalties they have endured.

Mr MaSween added today that the pelagic RAC was in the process of asking the European Commission to investigate the issue.

The North Sea herring stock totals around 1.3million tonnes and various theories have been aired as to why the stock is failing to grow including the impact of global warming and predation on larvae by adult herring.

“It just goes to show that you can regulate fisheries all you like, but if the stock does not regenerate for whatever reason, what can you do at the end of the day,” Mr MacSween went on.