Stock of beaked redfish in the Barents Sea (Sebastes mentella)

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

The stock of beaked redfish has a positive development. Recruitment to the stock was weak from 1996 to 2004, but has been clearly strengthened since then.

What is being monitored?

Stock in the Barents Sea

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The graph shows estimated size of mature and immature stock of beaked redfish in the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea. Combined, these data add up to the total stock. 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,  32,658 tonnes in 2018, 53,757 tonnes in 2019 and 55,860 tonnes in 2020 (including bycatch and discard).

In 2014 and 2015, catches outside the Norwegian economic zone amounted to less than 30,000 tonnes, but from 2016 there was a marked increase. Catches within and outside the Norwegian economic zone amounted to a total of 5600 tonnes above the total permitted catch. The corresponding numbers for 2017 were a bit lower, with a total catch of 900 tonnes above the total permitted catch. Catches in 2018 were at the same level as in 2016 with 6,100 tonnes above the total permitted catch. Preliminary figures for 2019 show lower catches than allowed with only 6,100 tonnes outside and 39,900 tonnes within the Norwegian economic zone.

The recommended total permitted catch for 2021 and 2022 are 66,158 and 67,210 tonnes, corresponding to a fish mortality of 0.06 which equates to the precautionary level. At the same time, the existing measures to protect fry and juvenile fish should be continued.


Causal factors

The beaked redfish population is affected both by 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.


The beaked redfish population is developing well, with an increase in both recruitment and the sexually mature population. The spawning stock was at its highest at 966 000 tonnes in 2007, and has since fluctuated between 800 000 and 900 000 tonnes. An unknown quantity of beaked redfish is also being caught as bycatch in other fisheries, such as silversmelt and prawn. The prawn fishery is therefore 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 beaked 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