Evaluation of the fishing effort and catch regime for demersal fisheries in the western Mediterranean Sea–PART IX (STECF-22-11)

Commission Decision of 25 February 2016 setting up a Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, C(2016) 1084, OJ C 74, 26.2.2016, p. 4–10. The Commission may consult the group on any matter relating to marine and fisheries biology, fishing gear technology, fisheries economics, fisheries governance, ecosystem effects of fisheries, aquaculture or similar disciplines. This report is the ninth of a suite of STECF EWG reports dedicated to the evaluation of the implementation of the Western Mediterranean Sea Multi-Annual management Plan (hereafter, MAP), following EWG reports 18-09, 18-13, 19-01, 19-14, 20-13, 21-01, 21- 13, 22-01. The group was requested to implement mixed fisheries bio-economic models to run a number of scenarios up to 2030 with varying parameters, to evaluate a fishing effort reductions for trawlers, longliners and netters in association to vessel number reductions for trawlers, increase in mesh size for trawlers, existing closure areas and catch limits for deep water shrimps (ARA and ARS) through five scenarios and draft a mixed fisheries advice. For all mixed fisheries models applied during the EWG (TOR 3), the data from the DCF official data calls and from the western Mediterranean stock assessments, were updated using data from EWG 22-09 (Western Mediterranean stock assessments) and EWG 22-10 (FDI datacall). The same set of updated data were also used to answer TOR 1 and TOR 2. The exploration of effort data time series (TOR 1) highlighted that in GSA7 the French OTB fleet >18m showed a decrease in fishing days counteracted by an increase of the corresponding fleet segments of French OTT which could be potentially due to a shift in gear use, although experts did not suggest specific causes that would drive this shift. The comparison of fishing days for trawlers (OTB, OTM, OTT, PTB, PTM and TBB as per EU regulation 2019/2236) declared in the FDI official datacall and reported in the 2020 and 2021 regulations were reported this year as well. Discrepancies were found also between 2021 data and the 2021 regulation (as per 2020) with the values reported in the regulation being always higher (for all countries but not for all fleet segments) than the values declared in the FDI datacall. Results suggest that effort is decreasing faster than the regulation for most fleet segments and that the reference period 2015-2017 might not be representative anymore of the effort dynamics of the last few years. For Spain and Italy reductions by 2021 are suggested to be higher than the expected reduction by 2022, while this does not happen for France. From the data quality checks very minor issues were highlighted and there was no reporting in the DTMT of these issues. EWG 22-11 would like to ask for clarifications to MSs concerning the association of gear type with the upper level of aggregation fishing technique as it was observed that odd matching were found which could undermine the calculation of fishing days in the comparisons with the yearly regulations. Specifically the gear OTB was often found under the PGP fishing technique and experts present at the EWG were not able to explain this match. The estimated F by gear and GSA (TOR2) allowed updating the analysis of the linear relationship between F and E. As in previous years a linear relationship consistent across GSAs and stocks was not found. The HKE, MUT and ARA stocks showed a linear relationship with OTB in some cases. For HKE 1567 the relationship did not hold once observed by GSA (although this could be a modelling artefact from the assessment model) or in EMU 2. MUT showed a linear relationship in GSA 6 and 7 with OTB and OTT (but results for GSA 7 should be taken with caution as there is a very strong variation in F for a lower variation of effort). ARA in EMU 1 by GSA (and on the overall stock 6-7) showed a linear relationship with OTB. No relationship was found for gears as LLS, GTR (except for MUT in 9) or GNS, neither for the stocks of DPS or ARS. EWG 22-11 suggests that running the analysis at metier level would give more meaningful results, although it should be noted that the metier is a very unstable resolution of fisheries, therefore difficult to define as data sources. To the methodological section of models (Section 5) two subsections were added, one on the models behavior during mid and long term projections and one on the relationship between biomass increase and economic gain. All models at the moment are suggested to be used for mid-term projections but not for long-term projections as the population dynamics are led either by stock recruitment relationships (BEMTOOL), which are not robust at the moment due to the nature of the data or led by recruitment stochasticity (IAM, ISIS-Fish and SMART), based on a random resampling of the time series but not accounting for potential environmental effects. This year for EMU 1 new analytical assessments were available to EWG 22-11 such as ARA 5, DPS 1 and DPS 5-6-7. In EMU 2, instead, 2 stocks were lost as it was not possible to have an updated analytical assessment due to data issues for MUT 10 and ARA 8-9-10-11. As ARA is one of the stocks with a catch limit defined by the EU Regulation 2022/110, the limitations due to the lack of assessment for this species when running the models in EWG 22-11, should be noted. Based on the final draft report from EWG 22-09, stock assessment of Western Mediterranean, which will be presented to STECF in November 2022, but has not yet been endorsed by STECF, the EWG observed that in 2020, 94% and, in 2021, 79% of the stocks were not at MSY. In 2022, the EWG shows that 73% of the stocks are not at MSY and 53% remain severely overfished. Some of the stocks could be already responding positively to the MAP measures, although the MAP has been implemented only since 2020 and the data available are only up to 2021. 9 out of 14 assessed stocks have decreasing fishing mortality, however, there are 4 stocks still behind transition to MSY of which two have declining biomass and increasing fishing mortality. Some stocks need particular attention for their low biomass level. EWG 22-09 identified as below the biomass reference point (Blim): Hake in GSAs 1-5-6-7, Hake in GSAs 8-9-10-11 and Blue and red shrimp in GSAs 1-2. In addition, five stocks are also below Bpa. Despite progress towards MSY, high levels of overfishing remains in particular for hake and deep-water shrimps. Models results (Section 6) showed that for EMU 1 (result only from IAM) none of the proposed scenarios (5 scenarios + status quo) achieved the objective of reaching FMSY by 2025. Red mullet in GSA 6 (MUT6) never reaches its Fmsy range during the simulation period (2022-2030) under any scenario, and hake in GSA 1-5-6-7 (HKE1567) is still above Fmsy in 2025. The other stock that is slightly behind the objectives is red mullet in GSA 1 (MUT1) with all scenarios. However, the other stocks (ARA12, ARA5, ARA67, NEP6, MUT7, DPS1 and DPS567) reach their FMSY range in 2025 with scenarios A to D. Only with the status quo scenario (scenario F) the FMSY range is not reached in 2025 for some of those stocks. Globally, all scenarios foresee some important negative economic impact for French and Spanish trawlers in the short and medium term with a decrease in their Gross Value Added. Even with scenario F (i.e. status quo), French trawler GVA is negative from 2022. This is due to the fuel price used in the simulation in 2022 and beyond from AER 2022 projections, where prices increased a lot compared to their initial values. Due to time constraints, it was not possible to have results from the ISIS-Fish model for EMU 1. For EMU 2 the setting of a maximum catch limit on ARA and ARS allows to approach FMSY for ARS, but not for HKE, even when in combination with other measures such as reduction of fishing days and number of vessels and change in selectivity. For ARS 8-9-10-11, NEP 9 and MUT 9 all scenarios implemented allow to reach FMSY in 2025 except for the status quo scenario (F). ARS, ARA and NEP stocks would benefit of all the scenarios, due to the re-allocation of the effort from the deep-water metier (OTB_DWS and OTB_DES) to the demersal (OTB_DES). This reallocation produces an increase in the fishing pressure on demersal fishing grounds, contributing to partly reduce the underutilization of red mullet in GSA 10, red mullet in GSA 9 and Norway lobster in GSA 9, but also increasing the F of hake. The total revenues and gross value added for the overall fleet are predicted to slightly increase with respect to the lowest values of the time series reached in 2020-2021. For scenarios A, B and D total revenues across all fleets will decrease compared to the SQ scenario (F), remaining above the recent values. A similar pattern is observed for gross value added. Simulations on fuel price increase of 120% (of the average fuel price in 2022) in 2023 onwards in EMU 1 showed an exacerbation on the GVA of fleet segments that already suffered from the management implementation. It should be highlighted that already with the "fuel option 1" (with fuel price in 2022 and onwards from AER projections), the economic performances are already negative, especially for French fleets, as the fuel price has strongly increased compared to 2021. Estimations of GVA in 2022, when effort reductions are still quite limited, are already negative suggesting that the negative GVAs are mainly due to the 2022 fuel price peak. In EMU 2 as well the main effect is to observe a lower GVA; specifically, the difference between the best performing scenario, that is B, and the status quo (F) is smaller. Here as well, the increase in fuel costs impacts more importantly on the GVA, compared to the decrease in fixed costs imposed by the effort limitations. For the application of the bio-economic models for the assessment of the development regarding the implementation of the West Med MAP it was decided to follow the methodology of the AER and, therefore, subsidies are not included in the calculations for income. The financial situation which the bio-economic models present for the year 2022 and beyond depend a lot on the assumptions regarding the development of fuel prices but include no mitigation measures for the fishing companies (like de minimis payments to cover parts of the increase in fuel costs 2022). Therefore, the modelling results show a lower level of gross value added compared to the real situation of the fishing companies. EWG 22-11 suggests that from an economic standpoint, it would make sense to conduct a detailed impact assessment (IA) for the further implementation of the West Med MAP. With such an assessment it would be possible to calculate possible scenarios (including possible mitigation and adaptation measures) regarding the implementation of effort reduction and the possible economic performance of the fishing fleets. The EU MSs affected by the management plan could then discuss possible mitigation and adaptation measures for the fishing sector. As such an IA is not requested by the West Med MAP it would have not follow the usual procedure within DG Mare and can be limited to assessments within the STECF context. EWG 22-11 concludes that the EWG chair and the STECF bureau should discuss with DG MARE how far such an impact assessment would be possible for the next EWG meeting in March 2023. Concerning economic indicators (Section 7), EWG 22-11 suggests that all the different bioeconomic modules should report the same economic indicators and specific reference points should be defined in order to evaluate the economic results of the different simulated scenarios in a consistent way. The selected economic indicators should be harmonized with the ones applied by STECF for the assessment of the economic performance of the fleet (AER) and the “balance” indicators. Also, in the STECF report 18-15 (STECF 2018) indicators are proposed which could be possibly applied. Additionally EWG 22-11 highlights that there are no indicators on sociological characteristics in the bio-economic models so far. Some of the models give “social” indicators, but in general these are closely related to the economic ones (gross value added, crew share, employment) and they do not actually produce detailed results on the social impact of fisheries policies.  Additional sections (Section 7) were added to review available information on technological creep in the western Mediterranean in the last ten years, but no information seems to be available now to account for this parameter within the models. A new section was dedicated to the development of a standardized ad hoc datacall for VMS and logbook data for MSs involved in the West Med MAP. The aim is to ease communication with MSs on the submission of these data and obtain a standardized format for all MSs that would fasten the work of experts in future EWGs. Due to time constraints, the two spatial modeling groups (SMART and ISIS-Fish) could not fulfill the scenarios requested in the TORs. The parameterization of such models is complex and time consuming, therefore to be able to respond to all TORs EWG 22-11 suggested that it would be very helpful to have scenarios at list a month before the beginning of the working group as it was done for EWG 22-01. Finally, in order to ease the work of EWGs concerned with the evaluation of effort and catch limit regime in the Western Mediterranean, catch at age matrices, F at age matrices and LFDs by GSA and gear for HKE and MUT stocks should be prepared in advance of the EWGs. This work could be held either during the western Mediterranean stock assessment EWG (to be evaluated with the chair of the EWG) or by a short ad hoc contract.

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Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) (2022). Evaluation of the fishing effort and catch regime for demersal fisheries in the western Mediterranean Sea–PART IX (STECF-22-11). Ref. ISBN 978-92-XX-XXXXXX ISSN 1831-9424 EUR 28359 EN. Publications Office of the European Union. https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00839/95121/

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