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New Fisheries Overviews for Greenland Sea and Azores ecoregions

Fisheries overviews portfolio grows to include nine ecoregions, including mixed-fisheries considerations for four ecoregions.
Published: 30 November 2020

​​​​In 2017, the first ICES Fisheries Overviews were published - for the Greater North Sea and Baltic Sea ecoregions. In only three years, our portfolio has expanded and now covers nine ICES ecoregions (Baltic Sea, Barents Sea, Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast ecoregion, Celtic Seas, ​​​Greater North Sea, Icelandic Waters, Norwegian Sea, Greenland Sea, and Azores ecoregion).

Fisheries Overviews​ summarize fishing activities within ICES ecoregions, including which countries are catching what species, the various fishing methods being used, and how stocks are managed. 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. ​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.  

New Fisheries Overviews

Fisheries Overviews are updated annually and the Greenland Sea and Azores ecoregions Fisheries Overviews are the latest additions.

The Greenland Sea ecoregion covers the entire east coast of Greenland from the Arctic Ocean to the Oceanic North East Atlantic and borders the Norwegian Sea and Icelandic Waters ecoregions but the majority of the fishery is conducted in the southern part of the area south of 70 °N. Fleets from Greenland, the EU, Faroe Islands, Norway, and Russia are active in this region. Capelin, herring, and mackerel make up the largest pelagic catches and the most important demersal fisheries are the bottom-trawl fisheries for cod, Greenland halibut, and redfish. Annual catches are 78,000–109,000 tonnes. The overview references 15 stocks for which ICES provided advice in 2020. ​

Physical disturbance of the seabed and benthic habitats by bottom trawls has been identified as a pressure in the ecoregion causing damage and loss of vulnerable marine ecosystem indicator taxa. Information on benthic habitats is limited but initial data reveal considerable overlap between locations of corals and sponges and trawl area. 

The Working Group on Integrated Ecosystem Assessment of the Greenland Sea (WGIEAGS)​ are currently developing an Ecosystem Overview​​ for this ecoregion.

The Azores ecoregion corresponds to the Azores Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), lying within the Oceanic Northeast Atlantic ecoregion and straddling the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The majority of fishing within Azores waters is by Azorean vessels, with only a small proportion of catches taken by vessels from mainland Portugal and Spain. Commercial fishing takes place until 700 metres and uses longlines as trawling is forbidden. The commercial fishery is classified as small scale as at least half of the vessels are less than 9 metres​ and licenced to target different species. Fish stocks in the Azores ecoregion are typically widely distributed stocks, their state is affected by pressures over a wider area than just the ecoregion itself.​

Sharks and turtles are commonly caught as bycatch in both bottom and pelagic longline fisheries. This ecoregion is also a ​hotspot for cold-water corals. As corals are common bycatch in bottom longline fisheries, conservation measures may be required.

Alexandre Rodríguez, EU Long Distance Advisory Council Executive Secretary, comments, "Despite being summary reports, ICES Fisheries Overviews provide critical and valuable information for understanding interactions between state of fish stocks and effects of the fishing fleets (métiers) operating within an ecoregion. My area of interest are international waters. Looking at the overviews for Icelandic Waters, Norwegian Sea, and Barents Sea, I find them all very useful to know who, where, what, and how much fishing takes place in each area. They might serve as well to inform both stakeholders and policy makers when discussing management measures for joint and shared stocks between the EU and third countries".​

Mixed fisheries advice

ICES Fisheries overviews are continuously evolving: As our science matures along with the capacity of expertise in the ICES science network, each annual update undertakes to include ​​new information relevant to requesters of ICES advice and stakeholders. This includes providing mixed-fisheries considerations for more ecoregions. 

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.

In 2020, mixed-fisheries consideration are provided for four ecoregions: Celtic Seas, Greater North Sea, Iberian waters and Bay of Biscay. This is the first time ICES has provided mixed fisheries advice for Iberian Waters and the Bay of Biscay. "It will be of interest to the South Western Waters Advisory Council, Spanish and French managers and fisheries organizations", notes Dorleta Garcia, Azti and member of the Working Group on Mixed Fisheries Advice​​​, "The mixed-fisheries considerations brings the advice dimension into the Fisheries Overviews, evaluating the impact of single stock advice while taking into account mixed-fisheries interactions, identifying the potential choke effects".​​


"The overviews are for anyone with an interest in fisheries or management in the respective sea regions",  explains Mark Dickey-Collas, Chair of ICES Advisory Committee (ACOM) , "ICES single stock advice addresses how much you can take from a certain stock in the following year in accordance with the agreed management objectives, but it doesn't say anything about how they are being taken, by whom, and how this impacts the ecosystem. Our Fisheries Overviews address this 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". 

Find all ICES Fisheries Overviews​ online​:



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New Fisheries Overviews for Greenland Sea and Azores ecoregions

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