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Brill in the Greater North Sea and English Channel, Demersal otter trawl

fish

Scophthalamus rhombus

Content last updated
27th Oct 2016

Stock:
Brill in ICES subarea IV and divisions IIIa and VIId and e, Greater North Sea and English Channel

Management:
EU

Overview

Brill (Scophthalmus rhombus) is a demersal flatfish that inhabits the temperate waters of the eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea at depths ranging from 5 to 50 m. Juveniles in the first two years of life inhabit estuarine and shallow coastal waters where there are complex habitats providing protection from predators. Adults are usually solitary, burying into sandy or muddy habitat at depths of less than 50 m, and migrating seasonally between feedings and spawning areas. Spawning occurs between February and May in shallow coastal waters. This demersal flatfish is a member of the turbot family (Scophthalmidae) that can reach a maximum length of 75 cm and mature adults can live up to 10 years. They feed on worms, molluscs, finfish and crustaceans; and are preyed on by other finfish, marine mammals and seabirds.

 

Landings of brill in ICES Sub-area IV (North Sea) and Divisions IIIa (Skaggerak) and VIId-e (English Channel) described as the ‘Greater North Sea’ averaged 2 083 tonnes per year between 2007 and 2014. Brill is mainly taken as bycatch in an otter trawl fishery and a beam trawl fishery for mixed demersal finfish in the Greater North Sea.

Stock Status

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The status of the brill stock in ICES Sub-area IV and Divisions IIIa and VIId-e has been scored a moderate risk. This is because the species has moderate resilience to fishing activities and the most recent ICES assessment shows that the stock size indicator, based on commercial biomass estimates, increased from 2007 to 2012 and decreased thereafter (ICES, 2015a). Consequently, stock size has been generally stable, fluctuating without a major temporal trend.

No reference points for long-term sustainability have been defined for this data-limited stock, and therefore cannot be used to derive a risk score. Instead, a risk score was calculated using a data-limited approach where the species moderate resilience to fishing activities was weighted by the stable population trend.

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Management

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The management of brill in ICES Sub-area IV and Divisions IIIa and VIId-e has been scored a low risk. This is because management decisions are informed by a biennial stock assessment, catches of brill have been below the available TAC since 2007 and a comprehensive regulatory framework has been put in place. Data-limited approaches are used for setting management controls which are based on knowledge of the fisheries and the biology of the stock. Management advice for this stock is based on the precautionary approach.

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Bycatch

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The bycatch risk of this fishery has been scored a moderate risk. This is because the fishery has potential to take and discard at risk stocks such as West of Scotland and North Sea cod.  A range of measures and/or incentives are in place to manage the fisheries, these measures, where adopted, will act to improve the selectivity of the fishery for some other species taken in the same fisheries depending on size and behaviour.

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Habitat

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The habitat risk of this fishery is scored as a high risk because otter trawls are considered to have the potential to cause significant adverse effects especially to deeper water habitats. This is because, although otter trawls are considered to have the potential to cause significant adverse impacts, , However, the risk of impact is to some extent mitigated by the fact that the ‘core’ otter trawl fisheries are spatially well defined and there has been a significant reduction in effort in this fishery over recent decades.

 

Spatial management measures have been implemented by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations to reduce potential impacts to deep water vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) and habitats through the establishment of bottom fishery closures. However, not all deep water VME has been identified and protected through closures so it is likely that some sensitive seabed habitats remain at risk of bottom trawling impacts.

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Outlook

Type Current Risk Status Outlook Reason

Stock

Moderate Stable

The status of the stock is likely to remain stable in the future given that the stock size indicator has fluctuated without a major temporal trend and catches have been below the available TAC since 2007.

Management

Low Stable

The management of the stock is likely to remain stable in the future. The EU Common Fisheries Policy is going through reform and there is some uncertainty on how this will impact fisheries management in the Greater North Sea.

Bycatch

Moderate Improving

The bycatch impact of the demersal otter trawl fishery is likely to improve in the future as technical and spatial management measures are continuously being developed. The progressive implementation of the landings obligation to demersal fisheries from 2016 onwards will reduce discarding, but it is not yet known to what extent this will reduce total catches and fishing mortality.

Habitat

High Improving

Otter trawls have the potential to affect sensitive seabed habitats, especially deeper water habitats, but spatial management measures are continuously being developed and will likely reduce the risk in the future. As planned networks of Marine Protected Areas become established, larger areas of sensitive habitat not previously intensively fished will become protected from any future trawling.

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