Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
624. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the tonnage of mackerel and blue whiting that spawn and feed in Irish waters each year; the allocation of quota to Ireland of these species; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62599/21]
I would like to inform the Deputy that it is not currently possible to accurately estimate the tonnage of mackerel or blue whiting spawning or feeding in Irish waters.
Both of these stocks are highly migratory with an extremely wide geographic range. At various times of the year, they can be found from the Iberian peninsula in the south to the Barents Sea in the far north, in the North sea and as far west as the mid-Atlantic ridge. During the summer months, the bulk of the stock is found feeding in the Norwegian Sea and adjacent waters. Later in the year, they migrate south to spawn during the first half of the year in warmer waters, typically to the west of Britain and Ireland for Blue Whiting while Mackerel also spawn in the Bay of Biscay. Detailed information on the spawning behaviour of mackerel is available from the mackerel egg survey which takes place every three years. Over the most recent decade, this survey indicates that, while Irish waters have remained very important, the distribution of spawning activity has expanded both north and west and has become more variable in terms of the timing and location of the peak of spawning. In the case of Blue Whiting, an annual survey is carried out. As with mackerel, while Irish waters are an important spawning location, the overall extent of spawning is very dependent on stock size and prevailing oceanographic conditions.
During the 2021 annual NEAFC negotiations on mackerel and blue whiting, working groups were established to investigate the utility of available data in determining the location of the stock during each phase of its life cycle. When complete, this work may provide a methodology to quantify proportions in individual zones.
In 2021, the Irish quota for Blue Whiting was 35,373t and Mackerel was 60,847t.