MSC Pre Assessments

Irish Prawn fishery MSC pre-assessment report

See below for a summary of the report

Background information and terminology:
This is a summary of an MSC pre-assessment report on Irish Nephrops fisheries which was conducted by SAI Global in August 2018.

MSC fishery assessments are based against 3 principles:
Principle 1 – Stock Management and Status;
Principle 2 – Minimising Environmental Impact;
Principle 3 – the Management System.
Under each of these principles there are a list of sub-criteria which are assessed and scored. In order to pass an assessment criteria must get a score of over 80.

Under Principle 1 available scientific information and assessments are evaluated. In order for stock status to be effectively evaluated there must be clearly defined reference points (e.g. FMSY – Fishing mortality consistent with achieving Maximum Sustainable Yield, or MSY Btrigger – the biomass level which triggers a cautious response within the scientific MSY framework). If these reference points are not defined or in other cases where limited information is available a risk based assessment framework (RBF) is used.

ETP species are Endangered, Threatened or Protected species.

VMEs are Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems.

HCRs are Harvest Control Rules. These are rules for pre-agreed management actions dependent on the status of the stock. For example, a control rule can specify how F or yield should vary depending on the spawning biomass level.

Primary and secondary species refer to other species caught in the fishery regardless of whether they are retained or discarded. Primary species are other species caught that have management measures in place intended to achieve stock management objectives. Secondary species are other species caught which do not have management limits or reference points in place.

For the purposes of scientific research Nephrops stocks are split into separate Functional Units (FUs). The FUs assessed in this report are:
FU15: Irish Sea
FU16: Porcupine
FU17: Aran
FU18: Mayo, Donegal Bay
FU19: South West
FU20/21: Labadie, James and Cockburn Banks
FU22: Smalls

Main strengths and weaknesses of the Nephrops trawl fishery

Strengths Weaknesses
Principle 1 – Stock Management and Status
The Irish Sea FU is fluctuating around a level consistent with Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). A key weakness is that the TAC is not set at the appropriate scale i.e. it is set for Area VII overall (with a sub-quota for FU 16) and it should be set at FU level. This creates a risk of unsustainable fishing in some FUs.
A harvest strategy exists for the FUs as a whole which has been set in line with scientific advice since 2012. Assessing some FUs (15, 20/21 and 22) is problematic as they are only partially within Irish waters.
Relevant information is collected to support the harvest strategy. In FUs 17, 19 and 22 fishing mortality hasn’t been fluctuating around a level consistent with MSY for long enough to score over 80. These FUs will fail on the Stock Rebuilding criteria (score less than 60) as a rebuilding timeframe has not been defined.
In FUs 16, 18 and 20/21 assessment of stock status is difficult as there are not well defined scientific reference points. However, preliminary risk based assessment suggest these stocks would score above 80.
The availability of information is not consistent across the FUs. The time series is short for FUs 16, 19 and 20-21 and absent for FU18. FU18 will fail on two scoring criteria due to a lack of info on the stock.
Recent fishing mortality rates have been high in the Aran and Smalls FUs.
Principle 2 – Minimising Environmental Impact
The fishery is likely to present a low risk to ETP species. In the Irish Sea whiting bycatch in the Nephrops fishery is a major issue due to its poor stock status and high discard rates. In the Celtic Sea, cod bycatch is a problem as the stock has poor status and fishing mortality is above FMSY.
The footprint of most FUs does not overlap with VMEs. It is not possible to determine whether the main secondary species, skates and rays, are above biologically based limits. Preliminary risk based assessment suggests skates and rays would pass.
There is some evidence of long term adverse effects from Nephrops trawling on mud habitats. A closer look at this and other research into trawling impacts is necessary to better understand the impact of the fishery. At present the fishery is unlikely to score 60 or above in the Habitats outcome and management criteria.
Principle 3 – The Management System
There is robust governance and policy, consultation and decision making processes. In FU16 there have been issues reported of misreporting occurring over a number of years and high-grading.
Clear, long term objectives are explicit within the management system. Management is not always set in line with the fishery specific objectives such that MSC Principles 1 and 2 will be satisfied.
There is a system for evaluating the performance of the fishery.
Overall Conclusion
The pre-assessment identified obstacles which need to be addressed before proceeding to an MSC full assessment.