Never before in the last half century have there been so many plaices in the North Sea as now. Therefore, more may be fished again.
It is estimated that 589,000 tons of plaice are currently swimming around in the North Sea, two and a half times more than the 'safe' level. This is the so-called 'maximum sustainable yield', the level of catch whereby no more are caught than are born in the same year. That plaice is doing well is good news for fishers. The current superabundance will permit fishers to increase their catch next year by 15 percent, or 97,100 tons. This is the maximum increase permitted by international treaties.
The herring is also making a good comeback. Although the survival of herring larvae remains low, herring stocks increased last year to the safe level of 2.3 million tons, says ICES. The researchers have also given a recommendation to increase herring catches by 15 percent to 456,800 tons. The state of the sole is less rosy. There are about 46,700 tons in the waters, just about the safe level. The total allowable catch is therefore limited (at most) to 14,000 tons.
Codfish stocks continue to do badly. Since the historical low in 2006, their numbers have hardly gone up. The growth of young fish is in danger, say the researchers. They therefore advise that the catch should be reduced drastically. In fact, there should be a complete stop to cod fishing if the safe biological limit is to be achieved, says ICES. These recommendations are still pending approval by the European Commission. The Council of Ministers for Fisheries will announce the definitive quotas by the end of this year.