Stock of deep-sea redfish in the Barents Sea (Sebastes mentella)

Deep-sea Redfish
Photo: Fredrik Broms/ Norwegian Polar Institute

The stock of deep-sea redfish is on the upswing. While recruitment to the stock was weak from 1996 to 2004, it has since picked up.

What is being monitored?

Stock in the Barents Sea

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The monitoring shows that the stock of deep-sea redfish is now recovered to a sustainable reproduction level.  Because they reach sexually maturity at a high age and because of the recruitment failure in 1996–2004, it is after 2015 a detectable increase in the stock is recorded.

Status and trend

According to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the beaked redfish population has recovered to a sustainable reproductive level. Recruitment was weak from 1996 until 2004, but has been clearly stronger since then.

In early 2007, the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) determined an annual quota for the fishery in international waters. The quota set for 2007 was 15,500 tonnes. The quota was then gradually reduced until 2014, when it was set at 24,000 tonnes.

In the re-establishment phase for the beaked redfish population, which lasted until 2014, it was only permitted to catch beaked redfish as an unavoidable bycatch in Norwegian sea areas. With effect from 2014 it has once again been possible to deliberately fish for this species within defined areas. In 2014 the ICES decided that the commercial fishery could take 30,000 tonnes  in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and 32,658 tonnes in 2018 (including bycatch and discard), but that the existing measures to protect fry and young fish should be continued.

In 2014, catches outside the Norwegian economic zone amounted to 4,000 tonnes, while catches within the zone were approximately 14,700 tonnes. In 2015 about 4,700 tonnes were fished outside the Norwegian economic zone and about 21,000 tonnes within it. Corresponding figures for 2016 show a marked increase, with catches of 7,000 tonnes outside the Norwegian economic zone and around 28,000 tonnes  within it. In 2017 the catches outside the Norwegian economic was around 6,000 tonnes, and within the Norewian economic zone barely 25,000 tonnes. The total catch was higher than it was in 2015, but slightly less than in 2016. The total catch outside and inside the Norwegian economic zone was therefore 31,000 tonnes, which is above the recommended total permitted catch of 30,000 tonnes.

Causal factors

The beaked redfish population is affected by both natural conditions, such as sea temperature and the occurrence of fish that eat beaked redfish, and human activity, such as fishing.

Cod and halibut eat small beaked redfish. Larvae and small beaked redfish fry are also found in the stomachs of herring.

The present spawning population consists almost entirely of age groups that hatched in the late 1980s. This is due to both the weak recruitment between 1996 and 2004 and the fact that the beaked redfish only becomes sexually mature at 12 years. The greater numbers of fish that hatched after 2004 have now (in 2017) begun to be included in the spawning population.

Consequences

The beaked redfish population is developing well, with an increase in both recruitment and the sexually mature population. Even so, the spawning population is expected to decrease for some years. This is due to both the weak recruitment between 1996 and 2004 and the fact that the beaked redfish often does not become sexually mature until 12 years.

An unknown quantity of beaked redfish is also being taken as a bycatch in other fisheries, such as silversmelt and prawn. The prawn fishery is therefore being monitored and areas with too high a proportion of redfish fry (maximum 3 fry per 10 kg of prawns) are closed for prawn fishing.

About the monitoring

The deep-sea redfish is red-listed as "Vulnerable" and has suffered from severe overfishing. It has a long life-span and sexually matures late. Monitoring the development of the stock size is essential to ensuring reliable, sound knowledge that enables sustainable management of its fisheries.

Places and areas

Relations to other monitoring

Monitoring programme
International environmental agreements
Voluntary international cooperation
Related monitoring