Catch sampling of the pelagic freezer trawler fishery operating in European waters in 2019-2020: joint report of the Dutch and German national on-board sampling programmes

The pelagic freezer trawler fishery targets small pelagic species. The economically most important species are: herring (Clupea harengus), blue whiting (Micromesistius poutassou), horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus), mackerel (Scomber scombrus), greater argentine (Argentina silus) and pilchard (Sardina pilchardus). Annual landings of this fishery follow seasonal patterns; different species are targeted during different parts of the year. The total landings of these target species by the Dutch fleet were about 220,000 tonnes in 2019 and 200,000 tonnes in 2020 (in European waters). The total landings of these target species by the German fleet were about 120,000 tonnes in 2019 and 117,000 tonnes in 2020 (in European waters). In total, 38 species were reported by the Dutch and German fleet in the period 2019-2020. Herring, blue whiting, mackerel and horse mackerel were the most abundant landed species. In the European Union, the collection and management of fisheries data is regulated through the Data Collection Framework (DCF) of the European Commission (EC). Within this context, from 2002 onwards catches of the European freezer trawler fleet are sampled by the Netherlands and Germany through two separate observer programmes. A process to harmonize the pelagic on board sampling programmes has started a few years ago and is still continuing. This report presents a summary of the data collected in the two monitoring programmes in European waters during the period 2019 and 2020. Within the Dutch programme, 12 and 10 trips were observed by scientific observers in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Within the German programme, Within the German sampling programme, 4 and 2 trips were observed by scientific observers in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The two programmes together correspond with a sampling coverage of around 16% in 2019 and 13% in 2020 of the total Dutch and German flagged pelagic freezer trawler fleet effort (expressed in number of trips) in European waters. The planned number of observer trips in 2020 and consequently the sampling coverage was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which arrived in Europe at the end of January 2020. In order to ensure sufficient monitoring of the pelagic target species, the German DCF industry self-sampling had to be intensified. Five different fishing grounds were sampled during the observer trips, namely the Celtic Sea, West of Scotland, North Sea, English Channel and Norwegian Sea. Overall, the species composition of the sampled trips is comparable with the species composition of the landings statistics of the Dutch and German pelagic freezer trawler fleet. In addition, the sampled trips provide information on rare, incidental bycatch species. In total, 77 species were observed during the sampled trips. An interesting element in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the concept of regionalisation, meaning that Member States which share a fishing area should work together in collecting, managing and making the data available for scientific advice. Regionalisation of data collection was established during the recast of the Council Regulation describing the DCF (EU 2017/1004). Ultimately, under regional sampling, the Dutch and German pelagic sampling programmes are expected to merge together or at least be completely harmonised and thus interchangeable. Currently, the EU Regional Coordination Group (RCG) for the North Atlantic, North Sea & Eastern Arctic (NANSEA) is working on a regional sampling plan for the freezer trawler fleet exploiting pelagic fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic.



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