The ICES Inter-benchmark protocol for Hake in Division 3a, subareas 4, 6 and 7 and divisions 8a, b, d (Northern stock) (IBPhake 2019) was held by correspondence between December 2018 and February 2019. The meeting was chaired by Michel Bertignac, France, reviewed by Santiago Cerviño, Spain, and attended by three participants from two nations (Spain and Ireland).
The ICES Inter-benchmark was conducted to assess the inclusion, in the stock assessment, of hake eggs and larvae data collected during the triennial ICES Mackerel/Horse Mackerel Egg Sur-vey (ICES, 2017) and of discards data from two fleets not yet included: the fleet of gillnetters operating in subareas 7 and 8 and a fleet of bottom trawlers (excluding Spanish trawlers operat-ing in subareas 7 and 8 and French Nephrops trawlers operating in Subarea 8). For the latter, the objective was to account, in the assessment, for the whole discard data available.
The Inter-benchmark concluded that the inclusion of the hake egg index needs to be further in-vestigated. However, as the information provided by this index is considered valuable, it is rec-ommended that this should still be used as an external indicator by comparing the assessment results (SSB trends) with the index.
The benchmark working group considered that the assessment including all discards data avail-able, adequately matches the patterns observed in the data and can be considered as a suitable basis for the assessment of northern hake stock status. The group also notes that this assessment accounts of all the catch data available. This avoids the need to provide, as it is now, a catch advice with two types of unwanted catch: forecasted unwanted catch (discards included in the assessment) and additional unwanted catch (the discards that were not included in the assess-ment).
The group was not in a position to propose any revision to the reference points but recommends that the results obtained during this inter-benchmark should be further considered during the next assessment working group (WGBIE 2019).