Friend of the Sea announces that, following a preliminary assessment run on behalf of a main European retailer, Friend of the Sea Advisory Board did not authorize further audit of the Nephrops trawl fishery in ICES areas VIa and VII. The fishery in the area is not compliant with Friend of the Sea main criteria and FAO Guidelines Art 30, requesting that “the stock under consideration is not overfished”.
Stocks in the areas have declined from 40 to 60% over the past two years and according to ICES (2009 Advice) they “are being exploited unsustainably” and “are overfished”. In some areas, such as the FU16, the ICES “advice now calls for a reduction in catches to the lowest possible level”.
Over 70 million undersized nephrops (25% of the catch) are discarded annually in the North and South Minch fisheries alone (2006, ICES). The fishing method – bottom trawling – is non-selective, yearly discarding millions of cod, haddock, whiting, hake, monkfish and megrim. A 2002 study in the Clyde Sea reported 9kg of discards per each kg of nephrops landed. 2007 fishing trials indicate an average of 50% discards. Spurdogs, a species on the IUCN endangered species Red List, are also a noted by-catch.
ICES (Advice 2009) confirms that the seabed in some areas is impacted more than 7 times per year by the bottom trawlers for nephrops. Rare marine benthic species have been recorded in the trawled area including species of sea pens. When nephrops trawls are towed over the seabed, they remove emergent epifauna, leaving the seabed flattened and highly modified (Magorrian & Service, 199833); large bodied, fragile organisms such as sea pens are particularly vulnerable (Troffe et al., 200634).
“We hope the fishery will in the future improve its management and lower its impact by promoting alternative fishing methods” comments Paolo Bray, Director of the international eco-label scheme “However none of the bottom trawling fisheries in the area currently stand a chance to be certified Friend of the Sea”.