Ecosystem overviews

Oceanic Northeast Atlantic Ecosystem Overview

Pressure: Selective extraction of species

​​Multispecies fisheries for deep-sea species developed in the early 1970s and peaked at 30 000 tonnes in 1975. Since then, effort has declined and landings now amount to less than 4000 tonnes per year. The current relatively small fisheries are mainly conducted by a few trawlers and longliners, primarily from the EU and the Faroe Islands.

The historical data on fishing effort and catches on high seas deep-sea species stocks does not constitute a satisfactory basis for carrying out analytical assessments. Consequently, the ICES advice issued each year is based on ICES precautionary approach framework. Demersal deep-water fisheries have large bycatches of non‑target fish, including deep-sea sharks.

The main fishery in the area has been a multinational pelagic fishery, fishing on two pelagic beaked redfish stocks (shallow pelagic and deep pelagic) that commenced in the early 1980s. The number of vessels participating in the fishery decreased substantially as the stocks were depleted to a historical low point. The combined catch of both stocks peaked in 1996 when 180 000 tonnes were caught; this has since declined to an annual catch of about 30 000 tonnes, mainly taken from the deep pelagic stock.

Fishing for tuna and other large pelagic species by long-distance longliners occurs across much of this ecoregion, depending on target species and season. The stocks and fisheries range over a much wider area than the ecoregion. Stocks and fisheries peaked in the 1970s, then declined to much reduced levels. There has been a decrease in fishing mortality rate and an increase in stock size over the last decade. Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is harvested in the central parts of the ecoregion, with annual catches since 2010 rising from 4400 tonnes to 7200 tonnes in 2017. Pelagic sharks are fished on longline in the North Atlantic, but there is no information on volumes caught specifically in this ecoregion.

​Further pelagic fisheries for species such as blue whiting and demersal fisheries for haddock occur in the Rockall–Hatton area, but amount to a small proportion of the total fisheries on these species. The total catch of blue whiting was 1 558 000 tonnes in 2017, but ICES estimated that about 80% was taken from inside EEZs rather than in the ABNJ; it is, therefore, unlikely that the state of the stock is strongly influenced by fishing in the ecoregion. A single-vessel fishery uses semi-pelagic gear for orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) on the Fangorn Bank and the Mid‑Atlantic Ridge.​​​

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Oceanic Northeast Atlantic Ecosystem Overview

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