Norwegian vessel operators’ federation Fiskebåt has responded to a consultation with the Directorate of Fisheries, following a request from the Norwegian Coast Guard for options to be introduced for the regulation of the mackerel fishery for the current season.
Fiskebåt has advised that caution rather than closure of mackerel grounds is a better option. The Coast Guard has requested these new powers to close areas on the grounds that excessively large shots can result in fishing gear bursting and catches being lost, in addition to which there have been by-catches of bluefin tuna at various points during the season, and catches of undersized mackerel towards the end of the season.
In its response to the consultation, Fiskebåt has pointed out that fishing can be variable through the season, and that many pelagic vessels have switched to pelagic trawl gear from purse seining to be able to catch their quotas.
‘We are not aware of problems of seines bursting during the mackerel fishery,’ a Fiskebåt representative commented.
‘In autumn, the experience was that the mackerel were increasingly dispersed. One measure that was introduced in was that the Storegga area was temporarily opened until 31st December 2021 for vessels pelagic trawling for mackerel. It is inherent with a migratory stock such as mackerel that there will be rapid changes in how catchable stocks. Fiskebåt is therefore dubious that closures re the right measure to avoid unwanted by-catch. Sections of the fleet this year have invested in sorting devices to avoid by-catch.’
Fiskebåt’s representative commented that there is no indication of how long a closure regulation would apply, nor to which vessels or gears it would be applied.
‘Fiskebåt believes that the establishment of caution areas would be a more prudent option than introducing closed areas, as stocks of mackerel can change so rapidly. In any case, it should be possible to take trial shots in such areas to ensure that the fishery is sound.’