The spring months are, under normal circumstances, a demanding time for ICES fish stock assessment and advice drafting expert groups. Advice on North Atlantic salmon, Baltic Sea fish stocks, Northeast Atlantic deep-water fish stocks, Arctic and North-Western fish stocks, deep-water fish stocks, and fish stocks in the Bay of Biscay, Celtic Seas, and North Sea is all scheduled to be released between now and June 30.
What the world is currently experiencing with the COVID 19 disruption is far from normal circumstances. Most ICES Member Countries' marine institutes now have travel bans and/or social distancing policies in place. Despite this, our incredible community of researchers have decided to continue working to try to produce the usual high standard of stock assessments and forecast fishing scenarios. Our expert groups on herring, salmon, and ecosystem effects of fishing have in the past weeks used virtual meetings to continue their analysis. Our work on analysis of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VME) in deep EU waters has also continued. As groups work, often under extra pressure, ICES Secretariat will ensure to support our community, as best it can, with any virtual meetings. To this end, ICES Advisory Committee (ACOM) has now implemented a “spring 2020 approach", designed to reduce the expert group workload. Most advice will still be published as planned using an abbreviated advice format. This abbreviated format will have less narrative, and still contain the key results of the analyses.
All requesters of advice (EU, Norway, Iceland, UK, NEAFC, and NASCO) have been informed that there will be disruption/change to the delivery of advice for the spring 2020 season. ICES has consulted with each requester about how this will affect the advice for each stock.
Work relating to advice requests concerning issues other than fishing opportunities will also continue, but again, in an adapted manner. A Workshop on EU regulatory area options for VME protection met last week and also prepared further technical and stakeholder/management workshops later in the year. Chair Ellen Kenchington says, “We learned a few things on how to work together remotely and will keep adjusting as we move forward."
The effects on the advisory process will reach beyond spring 2020 as ongoing surveys are affected. Looking forward, Mark Dickey-Collas, ACOM Chair states, “We are beginning to assess the impact of the current disruption on surveys, catch sampling, and data aggregation. We estimate that this disruption of work will likely start to impact the advice from June onwards and into the 2021 advice round".
All release dates for ICES advice in 2020 can be found online.
Follow updates on the impacts of the COVID 19 disruption on ICES work.
Photo: Rob Bouwman.