Brussels, 1 July 2005
What is happening to the anchovy stock in the Bay of Biscay?
Anchovy is a short-lived species (about three years). According to scientific advice, the number of young fish joining the stock (recruitment) in the past two years has been extremely low. This means that this year’s catches are predominantly made up of adult fish which must be protected as every one of them is important to the renewal of the stock. If the recruitment next year is still very poor, these adults will be the only chance of reproduction for the following year. The spawning season takes place from about mid-April to about mid-August.
Were there signs of problems with the stock?
When tabling its proposal to the Council on the fishing possibilities for 2005, the Commission followed the scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) which, for the second year running, warned of the poor state of the stock. ICES advice was for the setting of a preliminary catch level of 5,000 tonnes, so as to allow the rebuilding of the stock, with the possibility of a review in the middle of the year on the basis of the most recent surveys that would be carried out. However, the Council set the catch level at 30,000 tonnes, down from 33,000 tonnes in 2004.
The Commission supports the principle of an in season management system, based on in-year monitoring of the fishery and adjustments of fishing opportunities. A Council Declaration was adopted last December on the need to apply such a management system.
What is going to happen in the next three months?
The Commission has organised a meeting of scientific experts from its Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF) from 11 to 13 July, in Brussels. This meeting will examine the most recent data available, including those from the French and Spanish scientific research institutes so as to advise the Commission as to whether these data affect the earlier ICES recommendation on the closure. On the basis of preliminary information, ICES advice was that the fishery should immediately be closed and remain closed until there is reliable evidence that the stock is in a much better shape.