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Management of Anchovy Fishing in the Bay of Biscay

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Management of Anchovy Fishing in the Bay of Biscay
The Bay of Biscay or Cantabrian Sea is located to the north of Spain and to the west of France. Commercial fishing in the Bay of Biscay provides many jobs in the local area. Anchovies fished in the Bay of Biscay can be sold fresh, canned and also for use as feed for fish farms (Lopez-Bote, C. J., Menoyo, D., Bautista, J. M. and Obach, A., 2002). Due to extreme depletion of anchovy stocks in the Bay of Biscay anchovy fisheries was closed in 2005, this was to allow the fish stocks to recover (Commission of European Communities, 2009). This caused major job losses for this sector (Barandic, I. B., 2009). It was announced in December 2009 that fish stocks had improved therefore the anchovy fisheries in Bay of Biscay would reopen (European Fisheries Commission, b, n/d). This was also due to a new Long-Term Management Plan set up by the European commission. In the new Long-Term Management Plan there are new restrictions on Total Allowable Catch (TAC) in place to ensure that the fishing of anchovies was sustainable (Commission of European Communities, 2009). This essay is a summary of the implications overfishing had on the area, the new Long-Term Management strategy in place and the strengths and weaknesses of this new strategy.
History/ Implications
Overfishing is a serious problem in the world’s oceans. ‘Exploitation of many stocks continues to be beyond sustainable levels, while the status of a large number of stocks still cannot be fully assessed due to lack of data’ (OSPAR, b, 2010, para, 1). Anchovies are used as feed for fish farming salmon, the amount of anchovies used in the feed doesn’t even produce the same amount of salmon, on average for every 5 kilos of anchovies used as feed in farmed salmon only 1 kilo of salmon is produced (Bendell, L. and Gallaugher, P. (Eds.), 2001, p. 216). Therefore farmed fish will not sustain us if the oceans stocks decrease. In 2005 the anchovy fisheries was closed in the Bay of Biscay as the stock were so overfished they needed time to recover (Commission of European Communities, 2009). Overfishing has had many implications in the Bay of Biscay, when the fishery closed in 2005 fishermen, net menders, canning industry etc. lost their jobs and the fishery fleet declined from 391 vessels in 2005 to 239 in 2009, this directly affected 2,500 families (Barandic, I. B., 2009). It also has an effect on the local ecosystem for example the species that would normally rely on anchovies, like hake, would also decrease in size as they would have no food source (Von Dorrien, C., n/d). Closure also led to a substantial increase in the exploitation of other species in the area (Barandic, I. B., 2009). ‘The southern stock of hake is at low levels and subjected to unreported fishing’ (OSPAR, a, 2010). As anchovies have a very short life span they normally reproduce very early, this usually means that they are quite difficult to overfish (European Fisheries Commission a, n/d).
Management Strategy/ Management Tools in Operation
On the 23rd of November 2010 the Long-Term Management Plan was adopted by The European Parliament (Buonadonna, P., Jakubov, J. and Ni Bhroin, E., 2010). The European Commission began this plan in 2007 so that if the stocks were to recover there would be a sustainable management plan available. ‘Process of drawing up the plan involved the interaction between fishermen, stakeholders (South Western Waters Regional Advisory Council (SWWRAC)), scientists and commission representatives in discussing the best way of exploiting the resource’ (Barandic, I. B., 2009, p.23). This meant that everyone from each sector was able to express their concerns and opinions and a well rounded plan was able to be developed. ‘This interactive process enriched the definition of the rules on exploitation under review in various ways’ (Barandic, I. B., 2009, p.23). The main rule of the Long-Term Management Plan is that the TAC for stock levels will be set before the new fishing season opens in May/June (Commission of European Communities, 2009). ‘The plan also encompasses a ‘harvest control rule’ a mathematical formula allowing fisheries ministers to set the TAC immediately after receiving the scientific advice’ (Seafood Source staff, 2010, para, 2). There is only a short time span between the release of the scientific advice and the start of the fishing season therefore it needs to be a smooth process between TAC and the quota-setting arrangement (Europa press release, b, 2009). The plan therefore sets the target once a year before the season opens instead of in the general rule that TAC’s are set in December (Barandic, I. B., 2009, p.23). The Long-Term Management Plan states the TAC will be based on the current spawning biomass as estimated by the scientific, technical and economic committee for fisheries (STECF), then if the STECF cannot asses the biomass accurately enough, the TAC would either be left the same as the previous year or reduced by no more than 25%. This was done to reduce uncertainty for fishermen and stabilise the fishery (Seafood Source staff, 2010). The fishery reopened in December 2009 with a TAC of 7,000 metric tonnes (Seafood Source staff, 2010).
Critique of Strategy/Strengths & Weaknesses
This strategy has just been approved since November 2010 therefore it is unclear whether it will be a success. However it is positive to see that the process involved many people, fishermen, stakeholders, scientists and politicians which means that it was well researched. The proposed TAC represents 30% of the estimated biomass, and will be available to fishermen from France (10%) and Spain (90%) (European Fisheries Commission, b, n/d). The Council decided to reopen the anchovy fishery in the Bay of Biscay, in December 2009, after a five-year closure with a provisional TAC of 7,000 metric tonnes (Seafood Source staff, 2010). This shows that it is helping the anchovy stock to repopulate because anchovies are short lived and reproduce very young (European Fisheries Commission, a, n/d). In July 2010 the scientific evidence proved that the stock is in good state and above safe biological limits (Europa press release, a, 2009). The Long-Term Management Plan shows that the plan is sustainable and innovative as it assesses the stock before making TAC.

 Should prevent overfishing and ensure sustainability of fish stock
 Generates income for industries involved
 Creates employment through monitoring and setting of TAC
 More holistic approach • By catch and discard
• Loss of jobs because of the lowered TAC
• Difficulty of monitoring
 Potential to improve economy of countries involved
 Protects future carrying capacity
 Provides framework for future jobs
 Repopulate depleted stocks • Over exploitation still possible

The new Long-Term Management plan in the Bay of Biscay is based on a simple rule – to set TAC before the fishing season begins each year and based on the previous year. The TAC is able to be lowered if the stock decreases and the TAC for anchovies in the Bay of Biscay is 30% of the stock which means there is enough stock left to repopulate. However the plan has just been implemented so there are no results as of yet. But there is potential for success. The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg commented: "The anchovy fishery in the Bay of Biscay has been closed since 2005. This is bad news both for anchovy stocks and the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on them. I am extremely optimistic that this new plan, with its innovative approach, can succeed in restoring the fishery to good health – not least because the momentum behind it has come in large measure from both scientists and the sector itself" (Europa press release, b, 2009).


Barandic, I. B. (2009). Report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a long term plan for the anchovy stock in the Bay of Biscay and the fisheries exploiting that stock. European Parliament.
Bendell, L. and Gallaugher, P. (Eds.). (2001). Waters in peril. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic puplishers.
Benjamin, D. K. (2001, March). Fisheries are classic example of the ‘tragedy of the Commons’. PERC Reports. 19 (1). Retrieved, December 1, 2010 from PERC website:
Buonadonna, P., Jakubov, J. and Ni Bhroin, E. (2010). Anchovy stocks in Bay of Biscay: MEPs approve long-term fishery plan. Retrived, December 1, 2010, from The European Parliament website:
Commission of European Communities. (2009). Establishing a long-term plan for the anchovy stock in the Bay of Biscay and the fisheries exploiting that stock. Commission of European Communities.
Europa press release, a. (July 29, 2009). Long-term management plan for anchovy in the Bay of Biscay: questions and answers. Retrieved, December 1, 2010, from Europa website:
Europa press release, b. (July 29, 2009). Commission adopts innovative plan to protect anchovy stock in Bay of Biscay. Retrived, December 1, 2010, from Europa website:
European Fisheries Commission, a. (n/d). Anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus). Retrieved, December 1, 2010 from Europa website:
European Fisheries Commission, b. (n/d). Commission proposes higher anchovy catches in Bay of Biscay. Retrieved December 1, 2010, from Europa website:
Lopez-Bote, C. J., Menoyo, D., Bautista, J. M. and Obach, A. (2002). Herring vs. anchovy oils in salmon feeding. 15(4) 217-223.
OSPAR, a. (2010). Quality Status Report, Regional Summaries (Region IV – Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast. Retrieved December1, 2010 from OSPAR Commission website:
OSPAR, b. (2010). Quality Status Report, Use of Living Marine Resources. Retrieved December1, 2010 from OSPAR Commission website:
OSPAR. (n/d). Region IV - Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast. Retrieved December 1, 2010, from OSPAR Commission website:
SeafoodSource staff . (2010, November, 23). Bay of Biscay anchovy plan adopted. Retrieved December 1, 2010, from seafood source website:
TheFishSite News Desk. (2010, November, 25). Long Term Fishery Plan For Bay Of Biscay. Retrieved December 1, 2010, from The Fish Site website:
Von Dorrien, C. (n/d). CS 4: Background. Retrieved December 1, 2010, from UNCOVER website:

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