Recruitment in the fishery is extremely weak. The spawning stock biomass has decreased strongly and is currently below Blim.
Haddock is a cold-temperate (boreal) species. It is a migratory fish, found in inshore shallow waters in summer and in deep water in winter. Smaller than cod, it can attain a length of 70-100cms and can live for more than 20 years. It spawns between February and June, but mostly in March and April. In the North Sea haddock become sexually mature at an age of 3-4 years and a length of 30-40cm. Maturity occurs later and at greater lengths in more northern areas of its range.
The haddock stock at Rockall is an entirely separate stock from that on the continental shelf of the British Isles. Haddock there have lower growth rates and reach a lower maximum size than other haddock populations in the Atlantic. Spawning stock biomass is assessed as being below MSY and as having reduced reproductive capacity. It increased up to 2008 as a result of recent good year classes but has decreased constantly since then. Spawning stock biomass in 2013 and 2014 is below Blim (6,000T). Fishing mortality is above the MSY target. Recruitment during 2007–2012 is estimated to be extremely weak. This may be related to rising seawater temperature on the Rockall bank. At the same time there was a significant reduction of Calanus finmarchicus which is the main food item for larval and juvenile haddock at Rockall. This situation of food scarcity could have resulted in increased predation and food competition by grey gurnard. ICES state all these factors may have led to a reduction in the recruitment of Rockall haddock. ICES advises on the basis of the MSY approach that catches should be no more than 4310t in 2015 (1620 t in 2014). If discard rates (at age) do not change from the average of the last eight years (2006–2013), this implies landings of no more than 2,930t (980t in 2014). ICES also advises further management measures should be introduced to reduce catches of small haddock and to protect the younger fish joining the fishery in 2013.
A management plan is under development and is currently being evaluated. Presently the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) only applies to catches in EU waters. Part of the Rockall area is in international waters where non-EU vessels are not subject to TAC restrictions, allowing for an unregulated fishery in these waters. An area in these or North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) waters around Rockall has been closed to fishing since 2001, and in 2002 part of the EU area was closed to trawling, both closures to protect young haddock. In 2007 further closures to mobile and static gears have been implemented to protect cold water corals.
Rockall haddock is taken in directed fisheries and as bycatch in demersal trawl (85%) and longline (15%) fisheries. The fisheries are mixed together with monk and megrim, and some of the fisheries include substantial catches of blue whiting and grey gurnard, for example. ICES advises further management measures should be introduced to reduce discarding of small haddock. Of a catch of 1967t in 2013, 58% by number and 87% by number was discarded. The minimum landing size for haddock in EU waters is 30cm (27cm in Skagerrak/Kattegat).
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ICES Advice 2014, Book 5 http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2014/2014/had-rock.pdf
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