Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System

Northeast Atlantic NEAFC high seas fisheries
Fishery  Fact Sheet
Management report 2009
Northeast Atlantic NEAFC high seas fisheries
Fact Sheet Citation  
NEAFC existing high seas fisheries
Owned byNorth-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) – more>>

Overview: The Contracting Parties of NEAFC updated the 1980 Convention in 2004 (dispute settlement procedures) and 2006 (bringing the Convention into line with developments in international law since the 1980 convention was negotiated. 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.
NEAFC responds through due process to all UNGA resolutions, but there is some concern that the UN General Assembly deals with practical management measures for fisheries, which are best dealt with by states cooperating internationally in FAO and regionally in RFMOs, where it is possible to go through a holistic, integrated and participatory process.
There is also concern that in discussions in UNGA with respect to the Law of the Sea and Oceans the focus only seems to be on fisheries, whereas other human activities that impact on the health of the oceans do not get serious attention. It should be remembered that the only industry that is completely dependant on clean and healthy oceans is the fishing industry.

Location of Northeast Atlantic NEAFC high seas fisheries

Geographic reference:  Northeast Atlantic
Spatial Scale: Regional
Reference year: 2009
Approach: Jurisdictional

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

Area of Competence: NEAFC area of competence
Maritime Area: High seas

Fishing Activity
Fishery Area

Geo References for: Northeast Atlantic
Management unit: No

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

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 Non-Contracting Parties Scheme, the Scheme of Control and Enforcement and the ‘Guidelines for the expectation of future new Contracting Parties with regard to fishing opportunities in the NEAFC Regulatory Area’ generally implement the global instruments dealing with fisheries issues, in particular the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, the FAO Compliance Agreement and the FAO Code of Conduct. 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. The recommendations put forward by the Review Panel aim at further improving implementation in the NEAFC context of global commitments. In particular, it should be noted that the Panel recommendations generally implement the recommendations agreed upon by the Review Conference on the UN Fish Stocks Agreement in May 2006.

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 effect these recommendations.
The Commission has established a number of 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 dedicated Secretariat.

Area of Competence: NEAFC area of competence
Maritime Area: High seas.  
NEAFC Regulatory Area. Based on NEAFC VMS database. This maps shows positions of all fishing vessels in the NEAFC Regulatory Area irrespective of fishery and gear type. Prepared by Dr Jason Hall-Spencer.
Management Regime
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):

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

Source of scientific advice
The richest source of data on fisheries should be with ICES. ICES every year as a minimum for most fisheries, where analytical assessment is undertaken, estimates catch at age for each stock split on fishing vessels groups, based on samples from individual fishing vessels. This should make it possible to estimate the impacts of different fisheries on the fish stocks.
Stock assessments give time series of stocks in number and weight and fishing mortality. The fishing mortality should ideally be directly related to fishing activity (effort times fishing power), but the indirect estimates based on the relatively small samples of hauls by research vessels makes it more difficult to detect the effect of changes in fishing activity. Effort data are hard to come by, analysis of changes in fishing fleets and their fishing power have not been en vogue for the last many years. Attempts to work with fleet based and multispecies assessments and species interaction in ICES disappeared (although interesting research has is made into “size based interaction” rather than species interaction), after the ICES interpretation of the precautionary approach turned focus on single stock considerations.

Management Methods


    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 costal 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 closed to protect juvenile haddock. Work in progress to control fishing mortality with annual TACs.  

    • Deep sea demersal fisheries: These fisheries are regulated by effort (effort has to be reduced at least 35 % relative to a reference period some years ago. It is not expected that fishing mortality on individual stocks can be controlled by TACs. (not possible to perform analytical assessments.) Certain gears are banned (gill nets) and actions against ghost fishing lost gear are in place. Areas closed to fisheries should mitigate overall fishing mortality both in exiting and new fishing areas and impact of fisheries on vulnerable marine ecosystems. Authorisation to go to new fishing areas follows a strict exploratory fishing.  

    • Pelagic deep sea redfish fisheries: These fisheries are regulated by over all TACs and there is no agreement on allocations. 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.


    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. SCHEME OF CONTROL AND ENFORCEMENT. London – February 2010

    • Notification and authorisation
      No vessel can start fishery in the Regulatory Area of NEAFC without being notified to the NEAFC by the flag state. 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
      The Scheme outlines procedures for NEAFC inspectors, means of inspection. 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 Control and Enforcement, PECCOE. The reports of PECCOE are found at the NEAFC website.

      VMS and Port State Controls
      The fully automated vessel monitoring system (VMS) database to support surveillance and inspection is the major element in monitoring and controlling Contracting Party vessels fishing in the Regulatory Area. The inclusion of additional port control measures of Contracting Party vessels into the Scheme was included in November 2006. In addition, IUU fishing by non-Contracting Party vessels is being addressed with A- and B-listings and relevant port control measures.

      The NEAFC Performance review panel concluded that the Scheme enacts the provisions laid down in Article 18 of UNFA as well as the 1993 FAO Compliance Agreement. The Panel has concluded that the Contracting Parties largely fulfil their duties as Flag States in this context. NEAFC has in fact been in the forefront in using new technologies for the monitoring of fisheries. As outlined above performance could be improved but given the innovative use of VMS and communications for control purposes some developmental hurdles are to be expected.

    • Bottom Fishing regulation
      In July 2008 NEAFC adopted additional comprehensive measures on bottom fishing activities in the NEAFC Regulatory Area. These were supplemented at its 2008 Annual Meeting with specific operational procedures. And have been updated in 2009 and 2010.

      The draft FAO International Guidelines for the Management of Deep-sea Fisheries in the High Seas in paragraph 43bis reads as follows: “Risk assessments referred to in paragraph 43 (vi) above should take into account, as appropriate, differing conditions prevailing in areas where DSF are well established and in areas where DSF have not taken place or only occur occasionally”.
      Based on this NEAFC in its bottom fishing regulations has outlined “existing fishing areas” where bottom fishing has taken place and “new fishing areas” where bottom fishing has not taken place. In most instances there are not enough research or data to identify VMEs in “new fishing area”. To reduce risks to VMEs to a minimum these areas are closed to normal commercial bottom fisheries under normal authorisations to fish from the Contracting Parties of NEAFC. To gather further data exploratory fishing can be authorised under strict conditions in an Exploratory Bottom Fisheries Protocol (ICES has now designed a complete Exploratory Bottom Fisheries Protocol. It will be reviewed by PECMAS in February 201). Vessels authorised under this protocol have to have an observer on board. Observers shall collect data in accordance with a Vulnerable Marine Ecosystem Data Collection Protocol.

  • A map of the full extent of the NEAFC closures is shown below.

Source of Information
NEAFC Secratariat “NEAFC Fisheries status report 1998 - 2007” . Click to open 2009-06-01.
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