ICES releases latest Fisheries Overviews

Which species are being caught, by whom, in which areas, using which type of gear, and how does this impact the ecosystem?
Published: 30 November 2022

​ICES Fisheries Overviews provide a complete overview of fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic​, summarizing fishing activities within ICES ecoregions, including which countries are catching what species, the various fishing methods being used, and how stocks are managed. 

Today's advice release sees 10 ecoregions receive updated Fisheries Overviews, with the Iceland Waters ecoregion having a complete revision. (Faroes Fisheries Overview will be released in early 2023).  

Icelandic Waters revision

The Icelandic Waters Fisheries Overview has been revised. The major highlights are the new sections on key signals and the addition of bycatch information.​

Fishing effort in the ecoregion, after declining over the past 20 years for both pelagic and demersal, has increased slightly. Kristján Kristinsson, Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, Iceland​ has been leading the work as Chair of the Fisheries Overviews Advice Drafting Group and a member of ​the Northwestern Working Group (NWWG), the group that has contributed most to this overview. "Most fish stocks in the ecoregion are in relatively good shape", says Kristinsson, "The majority of stocks are fished close to FMSY but some stocks, such as the widely distributed herring, mackerel, and blue whiting, are being fished above​".


These three pelagic fisheries have seen increased effort and landings due to changes in migration patterns which have been linked to prey availability, oceanographic conditions, and stock abundance: a blue whiting fishery, which started in the late 1990s, the fishery of Atlantic mackerel which commenced in mid-2000, and the Norwegian spring-spawning herring fishery which recommenced at the turn of the century.

Increasing water temperature is noted as a key signal for species redistriution as the fishing grounds of species such as haddock, anglerfish, ling, lemon sole, and witch extend to the northern waters of the ecoregion.

The summer feeding grounds of capelin have moved out of the ecoregion to the Greenland Sea ecoregion. This is not thought to directly affect the Icelandic capelin fishery which occurs in the winter but it may indirectly impact the distribution and growth of predator stocks on which other fisheries depend. ​

When asked about the users of this overview, Kristinsson says that the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute​ has previously translated the Fisheries Overview into Icelandic and  it has been included in various reports, including the ​​Icelandic report on the state of the marine environment and ecosystems​


Quantified information on the bycatch of protected, endangered, and threatened species (PETS) has been included for the first time in the Fisheries Overviews (Norwegian SeaNorth SeaCeltic Seas​B​ay of Biscay and Iberian CoastBaltic Sea, and Icelandic Waters). This includes the five most frequently reported bycaught PETS marine mammal, seabird, fish, and turtle species, as well as the number of each these species bycaught in 2021 and multiannual bycatch rates of different PETS (2017–2021)​. Finally,  as a measure of potential bycatch risk, temporal trends in fishing effort are provided by activity with the highest bycatch rates. ​

Mixed-fisheries advice

Mixed fisheries present a challenge for sustainable management of individual fish stocks. Fisheries managers and stakeholders need to understand the various interactions: Which species are being caught, by whom, in which areas, and using which type of gear? The development of mixed-fisheries considerations answers this need: various trade-offs associated with moving from single stock management to mixed fisheries management are explored through various scenarios. Mixed fisheries advice provides potential fishing opportunities for a number of management scenarios.

With mixed-fisheries advice being provided for the Irish Sea in 2022, it brings to five the number of regions that ICES publishes mixed-fisheries advice for (Iberian Waters, Celtic Sea, Greater North Sea, and Irish Sea). With today's release, mixed fisheries advice has been updated with the catch composition by fleet segment and the technical interaction between species shown. Additionally, the potential changes in fleets' effort, as a result of single stock catch advice and historical catch quotas, are included.

Latest advice available now

All ICES advice, including Fisheries Overviews, is available to view and download online.​

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Fishing vessels, Stykkishólmur, Iceland. Photo © chasehunterphotos/Shutterstock.

What are Fisheries Overviews?​​​

Fisheries Overviews are advice that provide a summary of the fishing activity and impacts within an ecoregion. 

Which species are being caught, by whom, in which areas, using which type of gear, and how does this impact the ecosystem?

Fisheries Overviews​ contain for each ecoregion a historical perspective and landings over time since the 1950s, as well as contemporary information on national fleets, recent fishing effort trends, the composition of their catches, and the gears and methods used. The overviews also highlight stock management and the current status of resources and longer term trends, including information on stocks relative to maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and the precautionary approach. 

The wider effects of fishing activity on the ecosystem are also described – such as trawling's impact on the seabed and bycatch of non-targeted fish species, protected seabirds, and marine mammals. ​

ICES Fisheries Overviews address these issues ecoregion by ecoregion while the Ecosystem Overviews put the fishing activities into the context of the trends and status of the marine ecosystem as a whole.

This increases our capacity to provide the integrated ecosystem advice that is required to meet the current and future needs of clients and stakeholders and ensures ICES aligns its fisheries advice to conform to both the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which are the umbrella legislation for the EU marine environmental standards. 

Beginning in 2017, our Fisheries Overviews​ portfolio has grown (alongside our ecosystem and aquaculture overviews) and now covers all 11 ICES ecoregions (Azores​, Balt​ic Sea​, Barents​ Sea, Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast, Celt​​ic Seas, Faroes, ​​​Greater North Sea, Greenland Sea​, Icelandic Waters, Norwegian Sea, Oceanic Northeast Atlantic), providing a complete overview of fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic​.​
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ICES releases latest Fisheries Overviews

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