Stock assessors, researchers, survey experts, and industry and NGO stakeholders met in the ICES workshop to develop a research roadmap for Channel and Celtic Seas sprat (WKRRCCSS).The goal of the workshop was to produce a roadmap for the delivery of future research needs for the management of fisheries on sprat in ICES Subareas 6 and 7.
Currently ICES recognizes two sprat (Sprattus sprattus) stocks in the region, namely Channel sprat (ICES division 7.de) and sprat in the Celtic Seas (ICES divisions 6.a and 7.a-c,f-k). The Chan-nel sprat is subject to a Category 3 assessment with advice based on a Constant Harvest Rate but the Celtic Seas sprat is not assessed, with ICES providing precautionary advice every second year. The stock structure of sprat found all around the British Isles is uncertain and where, if at all, stock boundaries are unknown. At present there is insufficient understanding, information and data on the sprat populations in the Celtic Seas region to be able to provide robust advice on the current stocks or on potential changes in productivity in the short to medium time frames. Sprat are a key forage fish in these ecosystems, forming an important part of the food chain for key predatory species, including mackerel (Scomber scombrus), whiting (Merlangius merlangus), Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus), marine mammals and birds. Therefore, there is a need for advice which takes their role in ecosystem functioning into account.
The main aims of the workshop were therefore to:
a)Identify methods and data available for the identification of sprat stock boundaries inthe Channel and Celtic Seas.
b)Identify and prioritize potential and existing datasets (including environmental parame-ters), and assessment methods of utility for these sprat stocks.
c)Identify the advice needs of fisheries managers and stakeholders for sprat in the Channeland Celtic Seas.
d)Produce a roadmap for the delivery of the future research needed to underpin the scien-tific advice on management of the sprat fisheries in the Channel and Celtic Seas.
Participants were given presentations from a range of subject experts such as geneticists, survey coordinators, environmental NGOs and fisheries managers. The resulting discussions focused on pragmatic steps that should be taken to ensure that the resource can be used sustainably. The time frame for these steps range from immediate to 3 - 5 years. This prioritized list includes recommendations to workshop attendees, national fisheries institutes, future research projects, and assessment and ecosystem modelling working groups in ICES. Key areas include the gathering of genetic and biological evidence for stock identification, ecosystem modelling tailored to forage fish in the Celtic Seas, continued development of management strategy evaluations, and the investigation of survey adaptations and in-year advice. Many of the recommendations can progress in parallel. Attendees have drafted a roadmap for the delivery of future research needs for the scientific advice that underpins management of the sprat fisheries in the Channel and Celtic Seas. This roadmap is considered live and will be adapted as required.