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Workshop on the Management of Deepwater Artisanal and Small Scale Fisheries (continue)

Assessment and management of snappers in the tropical Australasian region

C.M. Dichmont1 and S.J.M. Blaber
CSIRO Marine Research
233 Middle Street, Cleveland Qld 4163, Australia
1Corresponding author: <>

We review our experiences on biology, stock differentiation and commercial potential of snappers in three study areas:

  1. an Etelis carbunculus fishery off the west coast of Australia
  2. shared snapper stocks (Lutjanus malabaricus, L. erythropterus and Pristipomoides multidens) between Indonesia and Australia and
  3. Etelis, Pristipomoides and Lutjanus spp. off Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea.

In some cases, we collected critical population dynamics information in order to undertake stock assessments. Even so, the information base for stock assessment was often weak. For example, ageing of these tropical species is difficult commercially, artisanal data in some regions are incomplete and juvenile animals were under-represented as their nursery grounds were difficult to identify. Although the general life-history parameters known for these species were found to be applicable, key population dynamic parameters described for the same species from elsewhere in the tropics were not transferable to the study areas. Growth rates and reproductive activity show significant regional variation. Further, the deep trenches between the Indonesian islands increase the potential for stock differentiation. Some of these species are unproductive. Based on these findings, the stock assessments confirmed that many of these fisheries are not able to maintain medium to large-scale fisheries and need to be carefully managed.

Ruby snapper (Etelis carbunculus) is a deepwater species, preferring continental shelf regions. In the northern part of Western Australia, it is targeted by a trawl fishery that from 1997 to 2001 showed strong declines in catch rates. A robust estimate of stock size and maximum sustainable yield could not be obtained with the available data through a biomass-dynamic model. Through a yield-per-recruit analysis, the optimal legal size at first capture was 56 cm. There was a lot of uncertainty associated with this figure. The main reason was the unreliability arising from using growth and natural mortality parameters from other parts of the world. Two very different growth curves for the same species exist from Hawaii and Vanuatu, which produce completely different sets of management recommendations.

The stocks of red and gold-band snappers that are exploited by Australia in the Australian zones of the Timor and Arafura Seas are shared with Indonesia (and East Timor). Indonesian fishers also exploit other genetically distinct stocks of these species. The genetic mtDNA studies demonstrated that there are two stocks of L.malabaricus in the region, two stocks of L.erythropterus, and at least six separate genetic stocks of P. multidens. Electrophoretic studies of allozymes supported the mtDNA studies, but suggest that the Arafura stock of L.malabaricus might be starting to differentiate. The results of the parasite studies and otolith microchemistry were consistent with those of the electrophoretic and mtDNA studies and confirmed that there is relatively little mixing of L.malabaricus or L. erythropterus from different parts of the Arafura Sea.

Studies of the growth of L.erythropterus and L.malabaricus used the counts of annuli on both whole and sectioned otoliths as alternative proxies for age and thereby determined age compositions of the sampled fish and growth curves for these two species. Growth studies were undertaken on P.multidens using sectioned otoliths as a proxy for age to determine growth curvesand age composition for this species. Studies of reproductive biology demonstrated that L.malabaricus is a serial spawner that breeds throughout the year, but exhibits a peak in spawning activity between November and March, while L. erythropterus has a peak spawning activity which slightly precedes that of L.malabaricus. Both species mature at about 300 mm SL, i.e. at about 3 years of age. P.multidens is also a serial spawner. Size at maturity was around 295 mm SL. Prior to this study, juveniles of L.erythropterus and L.malabaricus had been misidentified. With the advantage of knowing the precise identity of each individual juvenile fish based on a genetic analysis, it is now possible to discriminate between the different species for fish > 30 mm SL using morphometric data. Juveniles of L.erythropterus were caught in sampling surveys using trawl fishing in depths of between 4 and 7 m in two bays near Darwin. The data suggest that the juveniles are associated with bottoms with rocks, coral rubble, sponges or gorgonians.

A socio-economic study formed part of the Australia-Indonesia snapper project and has resulted in improvements in the Indonesian licensing system for vessels greater than 30 gross tons. The study determined that the Indonesian snapper fishery comprises the following.

  1. A small-scale artisanal fishery that uses bottom longlines, droplines and operates in waters down to 100–150 m depth within the 12 mile limit from the coastline.
  2. A semi-industrial or industrial-scale fishery of about 500–600 boats that fish using bottom longlines, droplines and lines in waters of 100–200 m depth or in areas of untrawlable bottom near the coastline.
  3. A much larger industrial-scale trawl fishery of around 700 boats that operate in the Arafura Sea and transfer frozen catches directly to export carrier ships. These vessels are often re-flagged Thai trawlers with Thai crews. The product from this fishery is shipped directly overseas without landing in Indonesia. Value adding occurs outside Indonesia. Thus, there is little economic return to Indonesia from the Indonesian trawl fleet.

The Australian snapper fishery is relatively small and comprises the Northern Territory fishery, which has moved towards the use of traps and a limited trawl fishery consisting of about four boats in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The main objectives of this section of the study at Lihir Island in Papua New guinea were to, (a) determine the species composition and distribution of the deepwater fish around the Lihir Island group and identify species of commercial interest, (b) assess the suitability of using otoliths as a reliable method for ageing tropical fish around Lihir, (c) estimate age, growth and mortality for each species and (d), determine fish stock size and potential fishery yields.

Growth rates for the fish around the Lihir Island group were comparable to those found by other studies on these deepwater species. Total mortality estimates were low compared to other studies, but the natural mortality estimates were generally equal to, and in some instances, higher than our total estimated mortality from catch curve data, suggesting that the estimates of total mortality may be underestimated or that fish stocks around Lihir are only lightly exploited. However, results obtained from artisanal fishing surveys indicate that the deepwater fish stocks are already heavily exploited by the artisanal fishery.

We identified 17 species of deepwater fishes, many of them lutjanids, that would be suitable for commercial fishing around the Lihir Island group, but catch rates for these species were low compared to commercial and exploratory fishing catches in other tropical regions. Catch rates around the islands were also highly variable and few species showed consistent catches over even short fishing durations. The Lihir Island group has limited deep-slope habitats and are relatively isolated with few alternative fishing grounds in close vicinity, so there is little opportunity to rotate to other fishing grounds when one area becomes overexploited. Therefore, these deepwater species are highly susceptible to overfishing by even only moderate commercial fishing effort. Fish biomass was estimated by extrapolating mean catch rates and estimated ‘effective fished area’to the total habitat area around these islands. For comparison with our results, we also applied the Polovina and Ralston method. The two methods resulted in different biomass estimates of 121 tonnes and 17.5 tonnes respectively for all commercial species. This generated widely variable sustainable yields for the commercial fish stocks. We consider that the Polovina and Ralston method more accurately describes the true stock size of these deepwater fishes around Lihir and indicates a conservative annual sustainable yield of only 965 kg.

Azorean deepwater fishery: ecosystem, species, fisheries and management approach aspects

M.R. Pinho and G. Menezes
Department Oceanography and Fisheries
University of the Azores
9900-862 Horta, Azores, Portugal
<> <Gui@notes.horta,>


“Deepwater species”is a new term describing species caught at great depths. The definition does not rely on fisheries but on the frontier between demersal and deepwater species and is not well defined. For example, the FAO has defined “deepwater”as species caught off-shelf and deeper than 200 m and ICES, from greater than 400m in depth. The term “deepwater fishery”is usually used in the context of the new, industrial fisheries of the developed countries such as that for orange roughy (Hoplostethus atlanticus). However, deepwater species cover a huge number of species, which include species caught by traditional large-scale fisheries on slope areas, e.g. Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) and redfish (Sebastes spp.) and species caught on the continental shelf but whose distribution extends to deeper waters, e.g. anglerfish and megrim caught by the traditional small-scale fisheries in island regions such as the Azores, Madeira and Canaries -where there is no shelf.

Interest in deepwater species in the Atlantic has arisen recently because of the declines in the more traditional fisheries and the consequent increasing exploitation of fish stocks in deeper waters. Concerns exist because experience in other parts of the world has shown that new fisheries can develop rapidly and the resources are vulnerable to overfishing. Assessments of the most important commercial deepwater species in the North Atlantic are made by the ICES Working Group on Biology and Assessment of Deep-sea Fisheries Resources (WGDEEP) (ICES 2004). However, some traditional species, which may be considered as deepwater, are also subject to assessment by other ICES working groups.

Management measures for these resources have been recently introduced by the European Community under the Common Fishery Policy. However, conflicting management options arise related to the interaction between fisheries (shelf, slope and deep species definition), fishing areas (European Union versus international fleets) and resource access under the context of the traditional large-scale versus small-scale fisheries options.

In this paper we attempt to describe the deepwater fishery of the Azores Archipelago as a case study of a North Atlantic small-scale deepwater fishery where the problems described above arise.


The Azores archipelago is located on the mid-Atlantic ridge at the juncture of three main tectonic plates. The archipelago consists of nine volcanic islands forming three groups, running from WNW-ESE between 37° and 40° N latitude, 25° and 32° W longitude (Figure 1).

The land area of the archipelago is 2344 km2 and the marine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is 948439 km2 (Instituto Hidrográfico 1981). The marine topography is highly variable, characterized mainly by rocky bottoms where there is no continental shelf and sedimentary areas are scarce (Figure 1) (Martins 1986, 1987). Compared to other archipelagos, the Azores have a fairly recent origin in geological terms having, therefore, small or thin sea bottoms and steep sea floors around the islands. These impose great limitations to the distribution of the marine organisms that live in the more productive and shallower areas.

The Azores archipelago showing potential fishing areas

Grey areas represent the 1500 m contour and the red lines the 12 miles and 200 miles zones.


The Azores have been classified as a temperate warm or subtropical region (Gorshkov 1978). Ocean circulation around the Azores is complex and not well understood (Juliano 1989, 1994, Alves 1990, Santos et al. 1995). The surface is dominated by the Gulf Stream water mass flowing from the west, approximately at 40°N which then splits into the North Atlantic current and the Azores current. Each of these currents divides into two further branches. The actual system is more complex because it may change during the year affected by the complex bottom topography of the Azores (see Juliano 1994, Santos et al. 1995). Overall, the general current flow is west to east.

However, despite the dominance of the oceanic system from the west, marine littoral flora and fauna have more affinities with the Eastern Atlantic (Santos et al. 1995), showing the complexity of the Azorean ecosystem. About 460 fish species have been identified as occurring in the Azores, (Santos, Porteiro and Barreiros 1997) but endemic fish species are almost absent. Thus, the Azores region has been described as a “cross-road”where fauna and flora from different origins meet and serves as a “stepping-stones”area for dispersion of organisms.

The marine Azores environment is considered to be a deepwater fisheries area characterized by narrow island coastal areas (the strata from 0 to 1000 m represents about one percent of the total EEZ area); seamount (including knolls, hills or guyots) areas (strata from 0 to 1000m) represent about two percent of the total EEZ (Martins 1986, Isidro 1996, Menezes 2003, Pinho 2003). Areas down to 1000m, considered as less productive for fisheries, represents about 97 percent of the total EEZ. The interactions between coastal areas and the different seamounts are not yet well understood. This deepwater ecosystem is complex because of the particular features and interactions of the different dynamic areas. The dynamics of some areas, such as seamounts, are in general poorly known (Rogers 1994).

The Azores is at the limit of the ICES statistical area, ICES Area X (Figure 2), which corresponds to an area of environmental and faunal transition in the Atlantic North (40o-50o N) and therefore are close to the limits of the distribution (North and, or, South) of many species, such as tunas and some demersal and deepwater species. The ecosystem is even more complex when the Azores is considered in the context of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) and North Atlantic ecosystems.

ICES statistical areas

The Azores archipelago (ICES area X) is marked on the map.



Here, deepwater species are defined as those species occurring below 200 m though ICES defines them as those species occurring below 400m. In the Azores it is quite difficult to use this definition because some important fishery species are distributed through all strata, as is the case for the important commercial species, blackspot bream (Pagellus bogaraveo). Further, because the archipelago is a natural deepwater ecosystem all “demersal species”may be considered a deepwater fishery.

In the Azores area most of the commercial species are found to 1200 m. Three main species assemblages have been identified for the deepwater community according depth: shallow (0–200 m), intermediate (200–600) and deep (600–1200) (Menezes 1996, 2003) (Table 1).


In the Azores one finds, in general, four main fisheries: (a) Small pelagic (for Trachurus picturatus and Scomber japonicus) using small open-deck vessels less than 12 m operating with small nets (Fernandes 1994, Isidro 1996, Pinho, Pereira and Rosa 1995); (b) a tuna fishery using pole-and-line operating on bait boats (>18m) from March to October (Pereira 1995); (c) a “demersal and deepwater”fishery using hook gears (hand lines and deep longlines) operating from small open-deck vessels (<12m) and closed-deck vessels (>12m) (Menezes 1996, Pinho 2003). More recently (1987) a fishery for swordfish (Xiphias gladius) has developed using surface longlines and operating from open - (<12m) or closed-deck vessels (>12m) (Simões 1995, Silva and Pereira 1999).

Other small fisheries can be defined such as those targeting squids and octopodus using traps (Porteiro 1994, Carreira 2000), kitefin shark (Dalatias licha) using gillnets and hand lines (Aires da Silva and Pinho 2003), a crustacean fishery using traps and targeting lobsters (Palinurus elephas, Scylarides latus), crabs (Cancer bellianus, Chaceon affinis) and shrimps (Plesionika sp. and Heterocarpus sp.) (Pinho et al. 2001a, b, c) and other littoral fisheries such as for limpets (Patella sp.) (Ferraz et al. 1999) and seaweeds.

This division is subjective and must be considered flexible because vessels can be classified into more than one gear component. Vessels are in general licensed for more than one gear. For example some demersal deepwater vessels also target swordfish during autumn. Tuna vessels also catch small pelagic and demersal fishes for bait and crustacean vessels operate in the demersal fishery during the winter (the closed season for crustaceans). Thus, in this sense almost all of the Azorean fleet can be considered as a deepwater fishery.

In the Azorean fleet we can identify three main components: (a) artisanal open-deck vessels, characterized by a mean length less than 12 m and a gross registered tonnage (GRT) <50 ton, (b)artisanal closed-deck vessels, with mean lengths less than 18 m and a GRT <50 ton and (c), the industrial vessels with mean lengths greater than 18 m and a GRT >50 ton (Figure 3).

The operational regime of each vessel type varies considerably. Small open-deck vessels usually operate in areas near the coast, using mainly hand lines. They make daily trips and target mainly shallow (<200 m) and intermediate (200–600 m) depth species (see Table 1). Some open-deck vessels (9–12m) based in St Miguel Island operate in a larger area including banks near the coast (to 50 nm). Small closed-deck vessels are considered the main component of the fleet targeting deepwater species and cover almost all areas and strata. They use mainly deep longlines and hand lines, operating in areas near the coast and in the banks and seamounts. These vessels operate in all strata but preferentially target species from 200–600 m strata, making on average three-day fishing trips, with one set a day, though occasionally more using from eigth to ten thousands hooks a set. Industrial vessels operate mainly on banks and seamounts, using deep longlines. They usually fish in the intermediate and deepwater strata. These vessels make trips, on average of seven days, with one (or more) sets a day of about 14000 hooks.

The fleet has developed over time with significant changes in their operational regime and fishing effort due to the construction of the new vessels since the 1980s and the introduction of deep longlines (Figure 4). During the year the operational regime of the fleet changes among vessels, fishing areas and gears, and targeting of different groups of species. The target species of the “demersal-deepwater”fishery is the blackspot seabream, and the fleets’operations change throughout the year according to the distribution of this species in time and space.

Table 1
Deepwater species assemblage

Roman numbers means a defined depth assemblage. “A”, “B”and “C”refer to a more homogeneous assemblage, defined for example by common habitat type. Only species that occur regularly on the annual Azorean spring long line survey where used on the analysis.
AssemblageSpeciesCommon nameStrata*
I APagellus acarneAxillary sea-breamBesugoShallow
Pagrus pagrusRed porgyPargoShallow
Serranus atricaudaBlacktail comberGaroupaShallow
Galeorhinus galeusTopeCaçãoShallow
I BPhycis phycisForkbeardAbróteaShallow
Muraena helenaMoray eelMoreiaShallow
Aspitrigla cuculusRed gurnardRuivo (cabrinha)Shallow
Raja clavataThornback rayRaia lengaShallow
I CTrachurus picturatusJack mackerelChicharroShallow
Scomber japoniciusChub mackerelCavalaShallow
-Scorpaena scrofaRed scorpion-fishRocazShallow
Boops boopsBogueBogaShallow
Diplodus sargus cadenatiWhite sea breamSargoShallow
II APagelus bagaraveoBlackspot seabreamGorazIntermidean
Pontinus kuhliiOffshore rockfishBagreIntermidean
Lepidopus caudatusSilver scabbardfishPexe espada brancoIntermidean
Conger congerConger eelCongroIntermidean
IIBHelicolenus dactylopterusBluemouthBoca negraIntermidean
Deryx decadactylusAlfonsinoImperadorIntermidean
II CPhycis blennoidesGreater forkbeardAbrótea do altoIntermidean
Coelorhynchus coelorhynchusBlack spot grenadierRato bicudoIntermidean
Beryx splendensGolden eye perchAlfonsimIntermidean
Nezumia aequalisSmooth grenadierRato redondoIntermidean
-Polyprion americanusWreckfishCherneIntermidean
III ASynaphobrancus kaupiKaup's arrowtooh eelCongrinhoDeep
Mora moroMoraMelgaDeep
Deania calceusShovel nosed sharkSapataDeep
Daenia profundorum SapataDeep
III BEtmopterus spinaxVelvet bellyLixinha da funduraDeep
Etmopterus pusilusSmooth lantersharkLixinha da funduraDeep
-Epigonus telescopusDeep-sea cardinal fishEscamudaDeep
Molva dipterygia macrophthalmaBlue lingPescadaDeep
Serranus cabrillaComberGaroupa do altoDeep
Aphanopus carboBlack scabbard fishPeixe espada pretoDeep

* Shallow <200 m; 200 m < Intermidean <600 m; Deep >600 m

Structure of the Azorean fleet

Classification by size of the vessels and proportion of each component is presented.



The demersal deepwater species are the second most important fishery of the Azores after the tuna fishery and recently have been the most important fishery in terms of weight (Figure 5). Total landings increased until the 1993, with a decadal rate of increase of about 1 000 t, decreasing thereafter. Globally the demersal/deepwater fishery generated an ex-vessel income of about €12.5 millions.

The Azorean demersal deepwater fishery includes more than 20families. Blackspot seabream is the main target species, dominating landings by weight and value (Figure 6). Other species are also commercially important and caught simultaneously. The ten top species fished during 1990–2003 were bluemouth (Helicolenus dactylopterus), conger eel (Conger conger), wreckfish (Polyprion americanus), forkbeard (Phycis phycis), alfonsinos (Beryx sp.), red porgy (Pagrus pagrus) and silver scabardfish (Lepidopus caudatus).

Landings increased until 1990–93 with a greater increase in the intermediate (200–600 m) and deep (>600 m) strata species, i.e. for conger eel, bluemouth, wreckfish, alfonsinos and mora. Landings of the traditional coastal species, e.g. forkbeard or red porgy, maintained the same level or decreased significantly during this period. A short-time exponential increase of silver scabbardfish during the 1990s was followed by a dramatic fall. Landings of deep-strata species, e.g. mora, deepwater sharks (Centrophorus sp. and Deania sp.) and black scabbard fish (Aphanopus carbo) started to increase slowly recently, indicating that the fishery is expanding to deeper waters. The same trend is observed in landings by value, i.e. they increased until 1993 and were stable or decreased thereafter. Thus prices increased as the landings in weight decreased.

Annual proportion of species by strata (shallow, intermediate and deep) landed by the bottom longliners

Graphs constructed selecting, from DOP database, only landings by vessel with more than 50% of target species considered as demersal/deepwater.


Landings in weight by the Azorean fleet


Landings of demersal deepwater species from the Azores (ICES Area X). Weight (a); Value (b)


Landings seem to show a decreasing pattern for almost all the important commercial species of the Azores. However, the trend in the landings may not indicate a real change on the abundance of the stocks because the multigear and multispecies character of the fishery results in a change in the dynamics of the fishery over time. For example, Pinho, Menezes and Krug (1999) suggested that the decrease of some of the littoral species such as blacktail comber and red porgy may be related more with changes in exploitation patterns than a real change in the stock abundance. Species such as conger eel and wreckfish that seem to maintain the same relative proportion in the landings may reflect specific targeted fishing by some components of the fleet. Nevertheless, the continuous decrease in landings of the main target species such as forkbeard, blackspot seabream, bluemouth and alfonsinos must be of concern because it seems to suggest a high level of exploitation or overexploitation.


Landings by species, vessel, island and port are collected at the time of first sale by auction. Data are detailed and of high quality since 1993. Length compositions of the landings are collected at the main ports through the Regional Biological Port Sampling Programme. In addition, effort data are recorded during the biological sampling programme. Logbooks are not available for most of the fleet. Since 2002 the sampling programme is running under the supervision of the European Union through the “Minimum Sampling Programme for Fisheries Data”project <http:/ >.

Abundance data, independent of the fishery, are collected annually from the Azorean spring bottom longline survey (Pinho 2003). Biological data, including maturation ogives, sex ratio and age composition, are collected annually for the assessment purposes. Despite the effort and high costs associated with the data collection programme, some problems occur in the quality of data for assessments, related to the use of commercial catch per unit effort (CPUE) estimates as an abundance index and problems in ageing fish, etc. Geo-referenced data and data disaggregated by gears for the analysis of the dynamics of the fleets by areas are not yet available.


The Azorean demersal deepwater fishery is a multispecies fishery. Results from diet studies show that predation among demersal species is not observed, which means that predator-prey relationships are a less important factor for assessments than are technological interactions (Gomes et al. 1998). However, there is no simple theoretical approach to assessing and managing the stocks in a multispecies context. For the Azores case, it has been assumed that changes in abundance of blackspot seabream, the main target species, reflect the dynamics of the other species.

Stock assessments of blackspot seabream have been done and presented to the fishery community since 1987 (Silva 1987, Krug and Silva 1988, Krug 1994, Silva, Krug and Menzes 1994, Pinho, Menezes and Krug 1999, Pinho 2003). Until 1992 demersal resources were considered moderately exploited, but by 1994 the assessments showed that resources were intensively exploited. Recent assessments suggest that the stock of blackspot seabream may be overexploited (Pinho 2003). However, it has been suggested that models used in the assessment may not accurately capture the dynamics of the species and the fishery. For example, stock identity is not yet defined for most of the species even by areas in the Azores ecosystem (coastal island areas, banks and seamounts). The interaction between all these areas is not yet understood but some local depletion has been observed, e.g. on the Condor bank and in the coastal areas off St Miguel Island.

Analysis of survey abundance data suggests that some of the traditionally commercially important demersal and deepwater species, such as alfonsinos and bluemouth, are intensively exploited (Pinho 2003) (Figure 7). However, survey results also show a high annual variability in the abundance indices, which cannot be explained only by fishing effects, indicating a high degree of complexity of the Azorean ecosystem. Particular concern must be paid to the consequences of the pattern of exploitation of the fishery on the sustainability of the less abundant species when harvest decisions are based on a target species. Pinho (2003) discusses this concern for the Azorean multi-species fishery.

Annual landings and abundance indices (RPN -Relative Population Number from the Azorean Spring bottom longline survey) of some commercially demersal deepwater species



Until 1992 demersal resources were considered moderately exploited and no management action was taken. Since then several recommendations, e.g. TACs, have been made to the regional government to reduce fishing effort and mortality but none were implemented. During 1998 and 2000 some technical measures were implemented, including restrictions on licences based on a minimum threshold landing in value, hook size limit and fishing area restrictions by vessel size and gear type. Minimum lengths are also in force for a limited number of species.

Coastal Marine Protected Areas have been proposed and implemented under the E.U Natura 2000 network and offshore MPAs has been proposed under Annex V of the OSPAR convention (Afonso and Santos 2004).

As a consequence of the intense fishing of traditional species, exploitation of new deepwater species such as mora (Mora mora) and black scabbard fish have been encouraged. However there is no local market for these species and so development of these fisheries has been slow.

Under the European Community’s Common Fishery Policy, management measures were taken with the introduction of TACs for some of the deepwater species (black scabbard fish, orange roughy and blackspot seabream) and effort restrictions (licensing of deepwater vessels based on a threshold tonnage). An additional and exceptional measure was introduced in the Azores (ICES AreaX) with the creation for a temporary period of a buffer area of 100 nautical miles where only Azorean vessels can operate. However, conflicts between traditional artisanal fishery developments versus industrial fisheries have been observed under the governance process of the Common Fishery Policy. The management measures that were introduced are poorly understood by locals and they seem to rely more on political agreements than on effective conservation measures for protection of fisheries and for thei0r ecosystems. For example, it is not realistic to promote open access to resources on the Azores area (ICES Area X) letting many industrial vessels from northern EU countries to fish species when local fishermen see resource depletions or when severe declining trends of landings and abundance indices are observed (as is the case for alfonsinos)! There is also a general lack of scientific knowledge of the ecosystem on different scales and a lack of political flexibility of the Common Fishery Policy to choose the regional option of small versus large-scale fisheries based on the local economic and social importance of fishing, physical restrictions of available fishing areas and limited commercial resources available (if the objective is to explore resources on the sustainable basis).

After 2004 fisheries governance will be the exclusive responsibility of the European Union under the Common Fishery Policy and so all the management procedures, including data collection and assessment process of the EU, will be completely adopted.


The Azores is a natural deepwater environment where ecosystems (coastal areas, banks and seamounts) can be defined at different scales (regional coastal areas, seamounts, Mid-Atlantic Ridge and North Atlantic). The dynamics and interactions between areas of different ecosystems are poorly known. The fishing areas available are scarce due to limited habitats where most of the commercial important species may occur. The resources are generally modest in size and exhibit a wide variety of life histories including long-lived and slow-growing strategies. Some fisheries occur on spawning aggregations around coastal areas or on underwater features, which make them particularly vulnerable to overexploitation. As a consequence the Azores option has been to develop small-scale fisheries to provide possible sustainable economic (export) and social (employment) benefits.

The Fisheries are multispecies and multigear (hook gears). Stock structures indicate that populations or subpopulations can be defined at local (e.g. shallow coastal areas or seamounts), regional (EEZ), and most probably, broader (North Atlantic) scales.

Data collection costs the same as for large-scale fisheries and the level of accuracy has been improved considerably recently.

Traditional resources seem to be intensively exploited and probably some less abundant species are overexploited. Efforts to develop new deepwater resources are underway with the objective of decreasing effort on traditional resources. However technological and market aspects, as well as size of the stocks and resource access policy have constrained the expected growth of new fisheries.

Management is complex and works at the regional, national and European Community level, resulting in conflicting managing objectives. From 2004 management will be the exclusive responsibility of the EC under the Fishery Common Policy and so all the procedures of EU will be applied, including those for data collection. Harvest decisions have been made for target species but have been criticized in favour of adopting more risk-adverse management approaches. Several other management tools, such as marine protected areas and co-management process, as well as a ecological management approach (Menezes 2003) and precautionary approach, have been used or proposed. Precautionary TACs are set annually for some species under the Common Fishery Policy because analytical results from the assessments are not available for most of the stocks.


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