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Northeast Atlantic NEAFC high seas fisheries
Fishery  Fact Sheet
Management report 2019
Northeast Atlantic NEAFC high seas fisheries
Fact Sheet Citation  
NEAFC existing high seas fisheries
Owned byNorth-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) – more>>

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Overview: The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) is the Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) for the North East Atlantic, one of the most abundant fishing areas in the world. The area covered by the NEAFC Convention is limited on the west by the 42° W meridian, to the east by the 51°E meridian, to the south by the 36°N parallel and to the north by the North Pole. The Contracting Parties are Denmark (in respect of the Faroe Islands and Greenland), the European Union, Iceland, Norway and the Russian Federation. Recommendations adopted by NEAFC are legally binding. NEAFC’s objective is to ensure the long-term conservation and optimum utilisation of the fishery resources in the Convention Area, providing sustainable economic, environmental and social benefits. Historically, NEAFC focused on the target species of the fisheries being managed, and bycatches of other economically important species. From the 1990s, there has been a development of an increasing focus on the effects of fisheries on the other parts of the marine ecosystem and on the protection of biodiversity. Therefore, while NEAFC adopts management and control measures for various fish stocks it also adopts measures to protect other parts of the marine ecosystem (including biodiversity) from potential negative impacts of fisheries. The Contracting Parties of NEAFC updated the 1980 Convention in 2004 (dispute settlement procedures – in the process of being ratified by the Contracting Parties) and 2006 (bringing the Convention into line with developments in international law since the 1980 convention was negotiated) https://www.neafc.org/system/files/Text-of-NEAFC-Convention-04.pdf. The preamble of the “New” Convention lists the international instruments of importance and stresses that NEAFC in addition to managing fisheries has an important role in conservation and integrating environmental concerns into its management. See also the London Declaration which agreed to implement the 2006 amendments on a provisional basis, pending their entry into force - in 2013: https://www.neafc.org/system/files/London-Declaration.pdf .

Location of Northeast Atlantic NEAFC high seas fisheries
 

Geographic reference:  Northeast Atlantic
Spatial Scale: Regional
Reference year: 2019
Approach: Jurisdictional

Jurisdictional framework
Management Body/Authority(ies): North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC)
Mandate: Management; Monitoring;
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Area of Competence: NEAFC Convention Area

Fishing Activity
 
Fishery Area
Climatic zone: Temperate; Polar.   Vertical distribution: Demersal/Benthic; Pelagic.  

Geo References for: Northeast Atlantic
Resources Exploited
  • Redfish - Norwegian sea
  • Redfish - Irminger Sea and adjacent waters
  • Mackerel - North East Atlantic
  • Haddock - Rockall
  • Norwegian spring-spawning herring
  • Blue whiting - North East Atlantic
  • North East Atlantic Deep-sea species

Management
Management unit: No

Jurisdictional framework
Management Body/Authority(ies): North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC)
Area of Competence: NEAFC Convention Area
Mandate: Management; Monitoring; Control and surveillance.  
NEAFC Convention Area. Courtesy of NEAFC

The NEAFC framework and international law and instruments

The NEAFC Convention, including its recent amendments, and the documents adopted to deal with specific issues, such as the ‘Measures to Promote Compliance by Non-Contracting Party Fishing Vessels’ (Annex VII of the Scheme of Control and Enforcement – SCE) or the ‘Port States Control Measures’ (Annex V of the SCE) generally implement (and often predate) the global instruments dealing with fisheries issues, in particular the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, the FAO Compliance Agreement, the FAO Code of Conduct and the FAO Port States Measures Agreement. NEAFC is a regional framework Convention and as such its provisions do not fully reflect the details and broad range of issues covered by global regimes, both because of the regional specificities of the NEAFC Convention Area and because, by referring to these instruments in its preamble, it can be assumed that the context within which the general provisions of the NEAFC Convention are to be implemented is that set out in such global instruments.

Responsibilities of the Commission

The Convention empowers NEAFC to adopt fisheries management recommendations by qualified majority vote (subject to the objection procedure and dispute resolution procedures). Recommendations become binding on Contracting Parties once objection periods expire and Article 15 of the Convention requires the Parties to give effect to these recommendations.

The Commission has established a number of Permanent Committees and Working Groups to assist it in carrying out its responsibilities pursuant to Article 3, paragraph 8 of the Convention. The Commission is also supported by a Secretariat.
Management Strategies
Management scenarios

Articles 5 and Article 6 of the Convention set up two scenarios for the management of NEAFC fisheries. Article 5 provides for recommendations for straddling stocks in waters beyond the areas under the jurisdiction of Contracting Parties. Article 6 allows for recommendations that apply to waters under the fisheries jurisdiction of Contracting Parties. This is done at the request of the Contracting Party in question and a recommendation must receive its affirmative vote.

The Contracting Parties of NEAFC have utilised both of these scenarios as follows (see also Management Method section):

It should be noted that, outside the NEAFC framework, relevant Coastal State groups adopt management measures and allocations for the whole distribution area of the relevant fish stocks; this is then the context within which proposals come forward for measures to be adopted by NEAFC for areas beyond the jurisdiction of Contracting Parties (i.e. the Regulatory Area).



Related Fisheries Management Units are:

Pelagic Fisheries for the smaller pelagic species



Demersal trawl fisheries for Rockall haddock



Deep sea fisheries (including some prohibitions on targeted fisheries)



Pelagic deep sea redfish fisheries



NEAFC adopts management measures and allocations for the whole distribution area of the stock for areas inside and beyond the jurisdiction of Contracting Parties. Related Fisheries Management Units are:

  • North East Atlantic Pelagic redfish fisheries in the Irminger Sea and adjacent waters
  • North East Atlantic Pelagic redfish fisheries in the Norwegian sea
  • North East Atlantic Deep-sea species fisheries


Some fisheries are regulated fully by arrangements outside the NEAFC context. Examples are the demersal fisheries in the Barents Sea (Joint Norwegian - Russian Fisheries Commission).



Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems

In 2008, NEAFC adopted a new binding Recommendation on bottom fishing which was a comprehensive measure, incorporating all the relevant elements from the UN General Assembly resolution, and the work within FAO. This remains NEAFC’s general approach to the protection of VMEs, although further improvements have been implemented since. Since 2008, the Recommendation has been amended and the current Recommendation 19:2014 (Rec.19-2014_as_amended_by_09_2015_and_10_2018.pdf) includes a rule that regular bottom fisheries could only take place in areas that are defined as “existing bottom fishing areas”, on the basis of actual fishing taking place there within a specific reference period (1987-2007). Outside these areas, only exploratory bottom fisheries can be authorised, and these are subject to severe restrictions, including assessment of likely impacts on VMEs.



Source of scientific advice

NEAFC management decisions are informed by independent high quality science. NEAFC does not carry out its own scientific research. Under the NEAFC Convention of 1982, NEAFC seeks the services of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea for scientific advice on conservation, protection and sustainable use of the marine environment and on fisheries resources management and related matters. NEAFC provides a forum for consultation and exchange of information on the state of fishery resources in the Convention Area as advised by the International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) and then proceeds to agree fisheries management policies, including examination of the overall effect of such policies on other living marine resources and marine ecosystems. Following its most recent Performance Review, the NEAFC Commission agreed in 2015 “that the clear separation between the scientific role of ICES and the policy and management role of NEAFC should be maintained. NEAFC should not take any action that would blur this separation, such as carrying out its own scientific work or doing its own assessment of the scientific advice from ICES.” Steps taken to improve cooperation between NEAFC and ICES have included discussions on long-term development of advice, such as possible multispecies advice, possible climate effects and other ecosystem considerations. Complementary changes have also been made to the Terms of Reference of NEAFC’s Permanent Committee on Management and Science.



The process of receiving advice from ICES on these issues continues. Each year NEAFC receives advice from ICES, not only on the main commercial stocks, but further advice on specific stocks or categories of stocks may be given (e.g. deep sea species or sharks and rays). Advice on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems is also given each year. This includes information on encounters with, for instance cold water corals and sponges and specific advice on whether existing VME related bottom fisheries enclosures should remain as they are or be amended.
Management Regime
Management Methods

CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT MEASURES - Binding

As stated in the Management Strategies section, Management methods are set by main category of fisheries:
  • Pelagic Fisheries for the smaller pelagic species: Regulated by management plans agreed by the coastal states and adopted by NEAFC. Fishing mortality controlled with annual TACs. Allocations between countries are agreed.
  • Demersal trawl fisheries for Rockall haddock: Regulation: Haddock box is closed to protect juvenile haddock. Work in progress to control fishing mortality with annual TACs.
  • Deep sea demersal fisheries: NEAFC also agreed in 2016 on an approach to conservation and management of deep-sea species and categorization of deep-sea species/stocks which provided for specific measures related to these stocks. This includes measures for specific stocks stipulating that directed fisheries are not authorised and that bycatches should be minimised, in keeping with the ICES advice. Other measures are directed at potentially developing fisheries targeting previously unexploited or lightly exploited deep sea species/stocks. These prevent unregulated expansion of new deep-water fisheries in the Regulatory Area before sufficient information has been gathered to facilitate ICES assessment and advice. In addition to these general measures specific TACs exist for grenadiers, certain gears are banned (e.g. gill nets in depths greater than 200m) and actions against ghost fishing lost gear are in place. Areas closed to fisheries aim at protection of fisheries on vulnerable marine ecosystems. Authorisation to start bottom fishing in new areas outside the existing deep sea foot print follows a strict exploratory fishing protocol.
  • Pelagic deep sea redfish fisheries: These fisheries are regulated by overall TACs and allocations (but subject to objection). The Irminger Sea Fishery is regulated by individual Contracting Parties, in the Norwegian Sea NEAFC Secretariat cumulates the daily catch report form the participating vessels of from all Contracting Parties and stops the fishery when the overall TAC is reached.
  • Conservation measures for certain stocks. In considering the impacts on biodiversity of fisheries in the Regulatory Area, NEAFC has not only been active in protection of VMEs but also in certain fish species. NEAFC’s current regulations include Recommendations prohibiting directed fisheries at basking shark, porbeagle, spurdog, deep sea sharks, rays and chimaeras. In addition, information gleaned from any incidental catches (and releases where possible) are to be provided to ICES for scientific purposes.

COMPLIANCE MEASURES - Binding

Monitoring and Control provisions for fisheries in the Convention Area were adopted in 1999 in the NEAFC Scheme of Control and Enforcement and the Non-Contracting Party Scheme. These two Schemes have been integrated into the NEAFC Scheme of Control and Enforcement (https://www.neafc.org/mcs/scheme).
Notification and authorisation
  • No vessel can start fishing for Regulated Resources in the Regulatory Area of NEAFC without being notified/authorised to NEAFC by the Contracting Party. It has also to be authorised to fish for certain species. There are also binding rules on vessel requirements, marking of gear and labelling of frozen fish.
  • Inspections at Sea and at Port
The Scheme outlines procedures for NEAFC inspectors, means of surveillance and inspection procedures. There are also strict procedures for reporting infringements. The reports of infringements and follow up actions are monitored by the NEAFC Permanent Committee on Monitoring and Compliance, PECMAC. The reports of PECMAC are found at the NEAFC website, while the annual compliance report for both Contracting Parties and cooperating non-Contracting Parties can be found on the NEAFC website from 2019.
  • VMS catch data and Port State Measures
From March 2000 an integrated database included data from the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS). It includes catch and transhipment data and is a major element of NEAFC’s capacity for Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) of Contracting Party and Cooperating Non-Contracting Party vessels operating in the Regulatory Area. From 2005 IUU fishing by non-Contracting Party vessels has been addressed by IUU listing of these vessels and with additional measures to reduce their operational capacity.
From 1st May 2007, Port State Measures (PSM) for foreign vessels became binding, making NEAFC the first RFMO with such measures. From 2015 NEAFC fully aligned its Port States Measures with FAO’s Port States Measures Agreement.
  • Electronic Reporting Systems;
At its most recent Annual Meetings (2017 and 2018) NEAFC adopted the introduction of an Electronic Reporting System for fisheries management. This will be implemented by all Contracting Parties over a two-year transition period, planned to start in 2019.
  • Bottom Fishing regulation
The first significant actions by NEAFC to address risks to Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems was the agreement in 2004 to close three areas to “bottom trawling and fishing with static gear” for an initial period from 2005-2007. The early actions within NEAFC somewhat pre-empted the UN General Assembly resolutions (most prominently resolution 61/105, in 2006) and UN FAO Guidelines for the Management of Deep-sea Fisheries in the High Seas (in 2008).
NEAFC adopted its general approach to the protection of VMEs in 2006, when four additional areas were closed to bottom fisheries. In 2008, NEAFC adopted a new Recommendation on bottom fishing which was a comprehensive measure, incorporating all the relevant elements from the UN General Assembly resolution, and the work within FAO. This remains NEAFC’s general approach to the protection of VMEs, although further improvements have been implemented since. The 2008 Recommendation also included a rule that regular bottom fisheries could only take place in areas that are defined as “existing bottom fishing areas”, on the basis of actual fishing taking place there within a specific reference period (1987-2007). Outside these areas, only exploratory bottom fisheries can be authorised, and these are subject to severe restrictions. The general approach also includes encounter protocols, to ensure that bottom fishing does not continue in cases where a fishing vessel unexpectedly encounters a VME.
Area closures remain as the major conservation tool. Bottom fisheries closures may be based on identification of specific VMEs, with borders drawn around them or otherwise cover areas where VMEs occur or are considered likely to occur. These closures are found both within and outside “existing bottom fishing areas” so preventing ‘existing’ bottom fishing in some cases and preventing exploratory fisheries in other cases – which can be seen as a precautionary tool. In general, the aim is that regular bottom fishing operations are only taking place in areas where VMEs are not considered likely to occur.
A new comprehensive and consolidated Recommendation on the protection of VMEs entered into force in 2014. This included all the general rules regarding the protection of VMEs, coordinates of existing bottom fishing areas and areas closed to bottom fishing. The network of closed areas now included very large areas on the Mid Atlantic Ridge. The Recommendation also included annexes on VME Data Collection Protocol, rules for the Assessment of Exploratory Bottom Fishing Activities as well as on VME Indicator Species.
The above developments mean that effectively all the Regulatory Area has been closed to bottom fishing by NEAFC in areas where the best available scientific advice indicates that vulnerable marine ecosystems occur, or are likely to occur. The development of measures to protect VMEs is continuing. The NEAFC annual meeting (2017) agreed recommendations on extensions to a closed area as well as renewal of all the existing closures, based on scientific advice from ICES.
A map of the full extent of the NEAFC closures is shown below.
Map of NEAFC Regulatory Areas, all closures and existing fishing areas Courtesy of NEAFC
Source of Information
 
Information provided by the NEAFC Secretariat.
North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) Click to openhttp://www.neafc.org/
The London Declaration which agreed to implement the 2006 amendments on a provisional basis, pending their entry into force - in 2013:  Click to openhttps://www.neafc.org/system/files/London-Declaration.pdf
Recommendation 19 2014: Protection of VMEs in NEAFC Regulatory Areas, as Amended by Recommendation 09:2015 and Recommendation 10:2018:  Click to openhttps://www.neafc.org/system/files/Rec.19-2014_as_amended_by_09_2015_and_10_2018_fulltext-and-map.pdf
NEAFC Scheme of Control and Enforcement  Click to openhttps://www.neafc.org/mcs/scheme
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