International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
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Arctic Fisheries Working Group (AFWG)

posted on 2024-01-25, 07:59 authored by ICESICES

On 30th March 2022, all Russian participation in ICES was suspended. Although the announcement of the suspension stressed the role of ICES as a “multilateral science organization”, this suspension applied not only to research activities but also to the ICES work providing fisheries advice for the sustainable management of fish stocks and ecosystems. As a result of the suspension, it is not possible to run ICES stock assessments or provide ICES advice for the Barents Sea stocks of NEA cod, NEA haddock, Sebastes mentella or Greenland Halibut, as management and data collection for these stocks are shared between Norway and Russia. There are therefore no AFWG stock assessments for these stocks this year. This is especially unfortunate as NEA cod is currently declining, and updated assessments are required to ensure an appropriate management response. It is to be hoped that the political decision to exclude Russia from the ICES advice process which underlies our sustainable fisheries management does not lead to mismanagement of the shared stocks and the consequent ecological harm.

It should be noted that bilateral Russian-Norwegian advice is being provided to the managing body outside ICES for the affected stocks, and there is therefore no current management need for ICES advice. This year AFWG is therefore providing advice for saithe, coastal cod north, coastal cod south, and S. norvegicus. In addition, an assessment has been run for anglerfish, although there is no formal request for advice for this stock. The stock trends are as follows:

Stock-by-stock summaries

Cod in subareas 1 and 2 North of 67°N (Norwegian coastal cod North); cod.27.2.coastN.

The existing coastal cod north assessment and Blim from the 2022 benchmark gives an SSB estimate of 130 671 tonnes, up from 116 771 tonnes in 2021. An ICES HCR evaluation has been conducted at WKNCCHCR, which proposed slight modifications to the tuning data for the model. WKNCCHCR noted a high degree of uncertainty around any Blim estimate, and therefore proposed a HCR based on a precautionary F0.1 and no formal Blim. This HCR has been adopted, and the catch advice for 2023 is 29 347 tonnes. It should be noted that this stock cannot be directly managed via a quota (as the fish are not visually distinguishable from NEA cod in the same area), and therefore management is based on gear and area regulation.

Cod (Gadus morhua) in Subarea 2 between 62°N and 67°N (Norwegian coastal cod South); cod.27.2.coastS.

The catch advice of 9136 tonnes is based on a standardized CPUE index, which increased to such an extent that the + 20% stability cap was reached. However, this index has high uncertainty, and auxiliary analyses show fairly poor status (SPR = 0.25 and F/M > 1). About half of the catch is immature, and this proportion has increased in the last 10 years.

Saithe in subareas 1 and 2 (Northeast Arctic) 

The NEA saithe stock is currently in good status, with the SSB well above Bpa at 715 674 tonnes (up from 568 972) in last year’s assessment. Following the HCR (and constrained by a 15% stability constr, the catch advice is 226 794 tonnes (which is constrained by the 15% annual stability constraint). This stock, together with the associated North Sea saithe stock, is aiming for a benchmark, likely in 2024.

Redfish (Sebastes norvegicus) in subareas 1 and 2 (Northeast Arctic)

The stock is continuing to be assessed as in a poor status, and with increasing catches is increasingly identified as overfished. A revision in the catch splitting between the two redfish species resulted in an upwards revision of the catch and therefore SSB history but does not affect the overall downward trend of SSB in the assessment. The catch advice is therefore zero.

As a result of a move to new age readers, a discrepancy in the age readings for older fish in the last three years compared with previous data was noted. This was dealt with by excluding the data on 30+ fish in the tuning series, but this feeds into a strong desire for a benchmark for this stock before the next advice is due in 2024.

Anglerfish (Lophius budegassa, Lophius piscatorius) in subareas 1 and 2 (Northeast Arctic)

Data-limited model results based on length data from the fishery suggest that the biomass seems to be doing well and that the exploitation pattern is appropriate, while the rate might be near/slightly above the level that would lead to maximum yield. Management is based on technical measures rather than a quota. AFWG does not currently give advice on this stock but considers the current assessment of sufficient quality to base catch advice on if requested by the managers. 

Barents Sea capelin

Following ToR b), the data on Barents Sea capelin were updated. No assessment is conducted during the spring AFWG meeting, the assessment occurs in autumn following the ecosystem survey (which in 2022 will be conducted outside ICES). An ICES benchmark will be held in late 2022 for this stock together with capelin in the Iceland-East Greenland-Jan Mayen area (WKCAPELIN). 


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

  • FRSG

Published under the auspices of the following ICES Expert Group or Strategic Initiative



ICES Scientific Reports





Contributors (Editors)

Daniel Howell

Contributors (Authors)

Jane Aanestad Godiksen; Caroline Aas Tranang; Erik Berg; Matthias Bernreuther; Bjarte Bogstad Olav Nikolai Breivik; José Miguel Casas; Laura Clain; Elise Eidset; Elena Eriksen; Johanna Fall; Maria Fossheim; Harald Gjøsæter; Sofie Gundersen; Elvar H. Hallfredsson; Hannes Höffle; Daniel Howell; Edda Johannesen; Kjell Nedreaas; Anders Nielsen; Georg Skaret; Arved Staby; Brian Stock Samuel Subbey; Ross Tallman; John Tyler Trochta; Tone Vollen; Kristin Windsland



Recommended citation

ICES. 2023. Arctic Fisheries Working Group (AFWG; outputs from 2022 meeting). ICES Scientific Reports. 5:18. 507 pp.

Publication language

  • en

File format(s)

  • PDF