Increased Flatfish Population Will Lead to Higher Catch Quota for Plaice and Sole

Frozen Cod
Published Nov 12, 2019
The flatfish population in the European North Sea has increased. This will lead to higher catch quotas for sole and plaice in the 2020 season. The quotas for cod and turbot, however, will be decreased.

Flatfish, such as plaice and sole, thrive in the European North Sea and are an important source of income for many Northern European fisheries. The North Sea is a major source for the flatfish catch of the Netherlands, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Belgium. In order to improve the sustainability of the North Sea flatfish population, the catch is regulated by quotas set by the European Council. For the 2020 season, the catch quota for plaice and sole will be increased.

Regulations on Flatfish Fishing

To ensure that certain key fish species, such as herring, plaice, and cod, do not become overfished, the total catch in Europe is regulated by the European Council. On the basis of scientific advice from advisory bodies such as the ICES and STECF, the European Council determines the annual Total Allowable Catch (TAC) limit per species. This TAC is then divided per country, giving each country a set quota based on their fishing history for that particular s[ecies. Quotas can be exchanged amongst countries. These quotas only apply to EU member states, but the TAC is determined in consultation with countries that fish in European seas, such as Russia.

Advised Quotas for the 2020 Season

The European Council is currently determining the TACs for 2020, but the advice of the ICES has already come out. The organization advises that the TACs for flatfish are increased, whereas the catch limits for cod and turbot should be decreased.

The ICES reported a significant increase in the young sole population during the late summer and early autumn of 2019. This means that the amount of adult sole will increase significantly during 2020. As part of the North Sea Multi-Annual Plan, the ICES advises a catch range of 10.192 to 29.767 tons in 2020. The maximum sustainable harvest is set at 17.545 tons, an increase of 40% compared to 2019. Based on the advice of the ICES, the catch quota for plaice will likely also increase, by 17% to 166.499 tons. This is mainly due to the high survival rate of plaice born in 2018, which leads to an increased plaice population in 2020. These species are especially important to the Dutch fisheries.

For other species, such as turbot, cod, and Norway lobster (scampi), the TACs have been decreased. These species are very prone to overfishing and the population has not grown as much as hoped during 2019. Especially the advised quota for cod is decreased significantly, by 61%. This will mainly affect the Nordic countries, such as Norway and Denmark. 


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