FISHERMEN have hit out at scientific recommendations to cut next year’s mackerel quota by 20 per cent.
This week the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) advised the total mackerel catch in the north Atlantic and North Sea should be restricted to 667,385 tonnes, down from 831,906 last year.
Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association chief executive Ian Gatt said the recommendation did not reflect reality.
Gatt said skippers had reported “an unprecedented amount of mackerel in the sea” earlier this year.
“Regular reports of shoals extending 50 miles have been observed during the first quarter fishery,” he said.
“The autumn mackerel fishery has just kicked off in the northern North Sea and skippers are seeing plenty of mackerel out there.
“It’s clear from the scientific advice that the key piece of information going into the assessment this year is data from a Nordic ecosystem survey.
“Information from this survey suggests that the mackerel biomass has dropped from 9m tonnes to 7.7m tonnes, which is contrary to what fishermen are seeing on the grounds.
“There has been a huge debate among scientists whether this type of information should be used to assess the abundance of pelagic fish including mackerel.
“But it’s clear to us that this information should not be included in the assessment.
“Our understanding is if this information hadn’t been used the advice would say the stock is in a stable condition.
“Next year the triennial egg survey will take place; this is a huge survey both in space and time and will provide a much better picture of the stock abundance.”
Meanwhile Norwegian scientists have also warned that mackerel are getting thinner and growing slower.
A report from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research (IMR) studied 26,000 mackerel off Iceland and Faroe.
They found that eight year old fish in 2013 weighed the same amount as a four year old fish in 2005. Scientists said fluctuations in weight were to be expected, but this was “a drastic reduction”.