International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
NWWG 2023_exsum.pdf (305.25 kB)

Northwestern Working Group (NWWG)

Download (305.25 kB)
posted on 2023-06-09, 10:08 authored by ICESICES

Note: the report will be published in the course of calendar week 24.

The Northwestern Working Group (NWWG) reports on the status and considerations for management of some of the demersal fish stocks (cod, haddock, saithe, plaice and Greenland halibut) around Greenland, Iceland and Faroes, as well as two pelagic fish stocks in Icelandic waters (summer spawning herring and capelin) and five redfish stocks in Greenland, Iceland and the Irminger Sea.

Stock-by-stock summaries 

Note: abridged version provided here due to word count constraints

Capelin in the Iceland-East Greenland-Jan Mayen area

The total landings in the fishing season 2022/2023 amounted to 450 000 tonnes (preliminary data). All catches were caught in December 2022–March 2023. The stock went through a benchmark in autumn 2022 where from results will be published in summer 2023 and potentially implemented in future HCR.

Greenland cod stocks

The cod stocks in Greenland were benchmarked in 2023, here they were separated into four stocks (cod.21.1.osc, cod.21.1a-c, cod.21.1d-f, and cod. that are considered reproductively isolated. The four stocks are not directly comparable to the three stocks ICES gave advice for from 2015 to 2022.

  • West Greenland offshore spawning cod: According to ICES MSY approach catch in 2024 should be no more than 2241 tonnes. 
  • Northwest Greenland Inshore spawning cod: According to ICES MSY approach catch in 2024 should be no more than 871 tonnes.
  • Southwest Greenland Inshore Spawning cod: According to ICES MSY approach catch in 2024 should be no more than 2349 tonnes.
  • East Greenland Iceland Offshore Spawning cod: According to ICES MSY approach catch in 2024 should be no more than 4429 tonnes for the sur-veyed stock component. For the non-surveyed stock component based on the precautionary approach catch in 2024 should be no more than 17 668 tonnes. 

Icelandic saithe

Annual landings in the fishing year 2021/2022 are estimated to be 63 206 tonnes or 81% of the TAC of 77 691. Since the fishing year 2014/2015 around 84% of the annual TAC has been caught on the average. According to the management plan, catches in the fishing year 2023/2024 should be no more than 66 533 tonnes. 

Icelandic cod

The results of this year’s assessment show that the spawning stock in 2023 is estimated to be 368 345 kt. The values estimated in recent years are higher than have been observed during the last five decades.

Icelandic summer spawning herring 

The total reported landings in 2022/2023 fishing season were 72.8 kt (including summer fishery 2022) although the TAC was set at 66.2 kt. Analyses of biological samples from the past fishing season indicate the continuation of new infection by Ichthyophonus in the stock in the coming fishing year 2023/2024.

Golden redfish (Sebastes norvegicus) in subareas 5, 6, 12, and 14 

Annual landings increased gradually since the 2000s, when they were at low level, to 2016. Since then, landings have decreased. Total landings in 2022 were 32 895 t, which is 10 531 t less than in 2021. About 95% of the catches were taken in Division 5.a.

Icelandic slope beaked redfish (Sebastes mentella) in 5.a and 14 

Annual landings in the years 2011–2022 were between 8300 and 12 000 t. The total catch in 2022 were 9457 t, a decrease of about 1000 t from previous year. Since 2007, survey estimates of S. mentella have consistently shown very low abundance of pre-fishery juveniles (< 30 cm). This raises concerns about the productivity of the stock. Without substantial recruitment biomass levels will likely continue to decline.

Greenlandic demersal Sebastes mentella in 14.b 

The Greenlandic demersal S. mentella is a data-limited stock (DLS) and follows the ICES framework for category 3 stocks. The low biomass indices obtained in recent years indicate that the stock is below any candidates for biomass reference points and given the poor recruitment for a decade no catch level could be identified in accordance with the precautionary approach. For a data-limited stock with extremely low biomass, ICES method 3.1.4 was applied and zero catches for 2024 are proposed. The stock has been proposed for benchmark in 2025.

Icelandic haddock

Due to this good state of the stock, and CPUE being at its highest value, the landings substantially exceeded the TAC advice for the fishing year 2021/2022. 

Icelandic plaice 

Icelandic plaice fishery in 5.a has been considered stable in the last two decades and annual total landings have been between 5 and 8 thousand tonnes during this period. In 2022, landings were 7276 tonnes, approximately 1400 tonnes decrease from the previous year. 

Faroe Bank cod

In 2022, a category 3 (rb rule) type of advice was formulated. According to this framework, catches in 2023 should be no more than 78 t. 

Faroe Plateau cod 

A category 3 assessment gave an advice of only 423 tonnes. Since cod and haddock are caught in a mixed fishery, the poor state of the cod stock may represent a problem when managing both stocks under an effort management system. 

Faroe haddock

This stock was benchmarked in 2017 and the assessment has since then been carried out in SAM. An interbenchmark (IBPFAR) in 2022 investigated the inclusion of interim catch-at-age data. Reference points were also recalculated during IBPFAR and finalized at the autumn NWWG meeting 2022. 

Faroe saithe

This stock was benchmarked in 2017. Since 2017 the advice is based on SAM. An interbenchmark in 2020 investigated the introduction of interim catch-at-age data (ICAA) for the assessment year. The revision improved the overall bias observed in the assessment. Reference points were re-calculated using EqSim.Landings have dropped substantially since 2011 and are estimated to be 17 038 tonnes in 2021.


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)

Teunis Jansen



Recommended citation

ICES. 2023. Northwestern Working Group (NWWG). ICES Scientific Reports. 5:64.