Fisheries Management

Objective of the challenge

Changes in the Arctic fisheries places increasing importance on fisheries governance and management in the region. However, a significant portion of international waters in the Arctic Ocean is currently not covered by any specific fisheries regulatory framework. The compilation of catch data and identifying gaps are vital requirements to support wide management of the region, and could assist by giving:

  • Indications of declining historic fisheries
  • Indications of new, growing fisheries
  • Measures of track records of fishing by different countries across the region as a whole.

This challenge focuses on compiling vital fisheries data, i.e. removals by the fisheries. The objective of this challenge is to collect and process fisheries landings data (excluding shellfish) including discards and bycatch information (of fish, mammals, reptiles and seabirds). The available data has been scrutinised to identify current gaps while also considering future use of the data.

Main results

Fisheries landings
The term ‘landings’ is used for the portion of catch that is brought on shore, while the term ‘catch’ refers to the total fish captures, whether brought on board the vessel and landed or not (i.e. discards). Thus because landings exclude these discards, the weight of landings is less than the weight of the catch. For the data presented for this objective it is not always clear whether it relates to commercial fisheries catch or fisheries landings. Datasets provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) have been used to compile fisheries landings (or catch) data for the Arctic area. Figure 1 shows the first results. The coming year we will work to a more interactive presentation of the data.

Total annual catch or landings fig1

Figure 1: Total annual catch or landings for the Arctic part of the NE Atlantic , Arctic part of the NW Atlantic and the Arctic Sea
Source Arctic part of the NE Atlantic: http://www.ices.dk/marine-data/dataset-collections/Pages/Fish-catch-and-stock-assessment.aspx: ICES Historical Landings 1903-1949; ICES, Copenhagen, Historical Nominal Catches 1950-2010; ICES, Copenhagen, Official Nominal Catches 2006-2014. ICES, Copenhagen
Source Arctic part of the NW Atlantic: http://www.nafo.int/fisheries/frames/fishery.html
Source Arctic Sea: FAO

Discards and bycatch
Within this study the term ‘discarding’ refers to that portion of unwanted catch (i.e. fish) which is returned to the sea for whatever reason. Discards may be dead or alive. Furthermore, the term ‘bycatch’ in this study refers to incidental catches of mammals, reptiles and seabirds. The amount of discards and bycatch will depend on the fishing technique that is used. Generally, targeted single species fisheries generate few discards but can cause incidental bycatch of megafauna, while mixed fisheries (i.e. fisheries that target several species) may generate higher amounts of discards. Monitoring programmes, such as observer or self-sampling programmes, are used to estimate the magnitude of discards and/or bycatch in different types of fisheries. Such collected data is not always reported, they can be presented in scientific journals or even in grey literature. Estimates of discarding and bycatch are therefore less readily available than landings or catch data.

At present the available information that has been found on discards and bycatch for the Arctic area is scarce; only fragmented discards and bycatch information was found. Within this challenge it is therefore not possible to create a comprehensive overview of discards and bycatch for the Arctic area.

Problems and gaps

  • Collected data on discards and/or bycatch is less readily available than landings or catch data.
  • For the catch data presented here it is not always clear whether it relates to commercial fisheries catch or fisheries landings.
  • The current catches in the FAO database for area 18 are thought to be too low to be credible. Alternative catch reconstructions exist but these are based on assumptions of which, in turn, their credibility could be contested.

Lessons learned

  • As the Arctic area only covers parts of the FAO major fishing areas the FAO catch database is not sufficient in generating an overview of all landings/catches for the Arctic area. Data also needed to be extracted from the ICES and NAFO databases.
  • It is not possible to generate an overall comprehensive overview of discards and bycatch in the Arctic area; only fragmented data has been found.


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  • CAFF, 1998. Incidental Take of Seabirds in Commercial Fisheries in the Arctic Countries. Technical Report no. 1 from the Circumpolar Seabirds Working Group (CSWG). Editors: V. Bakken & K. Falk. 60 pp.
  • EC, 2014. Council Regulation (EC) No 812/2004 of 26.4.2004 laying down measures concerning incidental catches of cetaceans in fisheries amending Regulation (EC) No 88/98.
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  • ICES, 2015. Report of the Working Group on Bycatch of Protected Species (WGBYC), 2-6 February 2015, ICES Headquarters, Copenhagen, Denmark. ICES CM 2015\ACOM: 26. 82 pp.
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