International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
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Advice on fishing opportunities (2023)

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Version 2 2024-04-23, 13:22
Version 1 2024-01-25, 08:07
posted on 2024-01-25, 08:07 authored by ICESICES

The ICES approach to advice on fishing opportunities integrates the precautionary approach with the objective of achieving maximum sustainable yield (MSY), unless otherwise requested. The aim is, in accordance with the aggregate of international guidelines, to inform policies for high, long-term yields while maintaining productive fish stocks in marine ecosystems that meet expected environmental standards (e.g. good environmental status [GES] in the EU).

Annex 2 of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement (UN, 1995) contains guidelines for applying a precautionary approach within an MSY framework. In accordance with a precautionary approach, populations need to be maintained within safe biological limits to make MSY possible. Within safe biological limits, however, an MSY approach is necessary to maximize long-term yields. All ICES advice is consistent with the precautionary approach, which is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for MSY.

MSY is a broad conceptual objective aimed at achieving the highest yield over the long term. It is non-specific with respect to: (a) the biological unit to which it is applied; (b) the models used to provide scientific advice; (c) the definition of yields; and (d) the management methods used to achieve MSY. ICES interpretation of MSY is maximizing the average long-term yield from a given fish stock while maintaining the stock as productive. ICES considers the yield to be maximized as the part of the catch that is landed, measured in weight. Depending on regulations for the individual stock, this may be calculated relative to the landed catch above a prescribed minimum size.

Many of the models (mathematical and conceptual) used to estimate MSY and associated parameters typically assume that factors not explicitly included either remain constant or vary around a historical long-term mean. Marine ecosystems are dynamic, however, and fish stocks will change not only in response to fishing patterns and fishing pressures but also to changes in their prey or their predators as well as to changes in the climate. ICES therefore considers MSY reference points to be valid only in the short and medium term (generally up to 5–10 years). MSY reference points should be subject to regular reviews and modified according to new information or process understanding.

To support the stock-by-stock management system, ICES provides advice on fishing opportunities and stock status for individual stocks. For some stocks ICES is only requested to advise on its status and not on fishing opportunities. In addition to the single-stock advice, ICES also provides mixed-fisheries considerations, fisheries overviews, and ecosystem overviews. These encapsulate the technical and biological interactions between stocks at an ecoregion scale.


Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee

  • ACOM


General ICES Advice Guidelines

Recommended citation

ICES. 2023. Advice on fishing opportunities. In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2023. ICES Advice 2023, section 1.1.1.

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