Reduced mackerel landings, but herring and anchovy look stronger


Mackerel landings weakened in 2018. The outlook for 2019 is for further reductions and consequently prices will come up. Herring and anchovy catches are expected to be good in 2019.


Norway’s autumn mackerel season started slowly in early October. In September, bad weather caused much of the fleet to stay in port, and landings were few and far between. The main problem was unfavourable weather conditions, which persisted for weeks. As of mid-October, Norwegian mackerel landings amounted to only 74 000 tonnes, compared to 180 000 tonnes at the same time in 2017. This caused prices at the first-hand level to shoot up by over 35 percent. Spain has received an additional 3 000 tonne quota for horse mackerel, through negotiations with Portugal. The agreement took effect in October and concerns the Cantabrian and northwest coastal fleet and the Gulf of Cadiz. 


According to the Norwegian pelagic sales organization, Norges Sildesalgslag, 2018 was a good year for Norwegian fishers catching pelagic fish for the fishmeal industry. The organization had a record turnover of NOK 7.9 billion (USD 930 million), an increase of about NOK 800 million or 11.3 percent. This substantial increase was due to boosted sales to the fishmeal and fish oil sector. The total volume handled by Norges Sildesalgslag amounted to 1.6 million tonnes, almost 70 percent of all fish landed in Norway during 2018. As much as 740 000 tonnes of that went for reduction purposes. This was an increase of 140 000 tonnes compared to 2017. Prices for raw material to fishmeal and fish oil industry went up by about 50 percent. Norway’s herring quota for 2018 was fully caught by 5 December. In fact, the landed catch amounted to 326 900 tonnes, 7.4 percent more than the quota set at 304 500 tonnes.


The second season of the Peruvian anchovy fishery started strong on 15 November. During the first week of fishing after the season opened, 18 percent of the 2.1 million tonne quota was caught (381 400 tonnes). Previously, a temporary quota of 400 000 tonnes was set, but this was increased on 15 November. The quota was based on information provided by the Ministry of Production that indicated a biomass of 7.2 million tonnes in the central-northern stock. The National Fisheries Society (SNP) estimated that a total of 6 million tonnes of anchovies was landed in 2018. This is the highest level in six years.


China’s imports of round frozen mackerel increased from 134 800 tonnes during the first nine months of 2017 to 168 100 tonnes during the same period in 2018 (+24.7 percent). The main suppliers were the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Norway’s mackerel exports (including all product forms) during this period fell by 44 percent, from 134 900 tonnes to 93 400 tonnes. Exports of round frozen mackerel went down by 31 percent to 88 500 tonnes. The main importers were Japan (11 300 tonnes), China (10 600 tonnes) and Turkey (9 800 tonnes).

Russian Federation exports of round frozen herring fell by 7.3 percent to 133 900 tonnes (first nine months of 2018 compared to the same period of 2017). China was the largest market for herring from the Russian Federation, accounting for 105 200 tonnes or about 79 percent of total Russian Federation exports. The Republic of Korea was the second most important market, accounting for about 7.5 percent.

Norway’s exports of round frozen herring increased slightly to 86 900 tonnes during the first nine months of 2018. Total herring exports (including all product forms) increased from 176 900 tonnes in the first nine months of 2017 to 198 500 tonnes during the same period in 2018 (+12.2. percent). Preliminary figures for the full year indicate that a total of 229 000 tonnes of herring was exported in 2018, but prices fell during the year. The main markets for Norwegian round frozen herring were Egypt, Lithuania and Ukraine. German imports of prepared or preserved herring products were practically the same in the first nine months of 2018 as in the same period in 2017. A total of 33 000 tonnes was imported in 2018, and the main markets were Poland, Denmark and Lithuania. 


In late November 2018, the EU28, Norway and the Faroe Islands agreed on a TAC for the northeast Atlantic mackerel at 653 438 tonnes for 2019. This represents a 20 percent cut compared to 2018. International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) had recommended a much more drastic cut to just 318 403 tonnes in the TAC for 2019. In 2017, ICES advised a TAC of 857 185 tonnes. Representatives of fishers organizations were disappointed by the cut, but also relieved that the original ICES cut advice was not taken. Fishers claim that the resource is in much better shape than ICES believes. Part of the agreement between the three parties also included that ICES should re-evaluate the mackerel advice in early 2019. Just before Christmas, the three parties also signed an agreement about reciprocal access for 2019. The agreement does not involve joint management, but it does give provisions for transfer of fishing opportunities and access to each other’s waters. The parties will grant reciprocal access to fish 24 690 tonnes of mackerel in 2019 (down from 30 877 tonnes in 2018). For blue whiting the reciprocal access was set at 22 500 tonnes and for Atlanto-Scandinavian herring at 4 000 tonnes. 

According to Nordea Bank, further reductions in quotas must be expected in coming years. This will undoubtedly lead to increasing prices and the bank now expects these price increases to come earlier than previously anticipated. One likely consequence of this may be that more mackerel will be diverted to the best-paying markets, leaving less for the poorer markets. In addition to tighter supplies, other driving forces behind the price increases include the trend for an increase in filleting, more precise sorting of mackerel over 600 g, increased demand in Asia and more product development.

Mackerel landings in 2019 are set to come down as the TAC in the North Atlantic and the North Sea has been reduced. Prices have been rising and will continue to rise during the next twelve months. For herring, supplies will increase significantly in 2019. As a result, prices will continue to fall. The outlook for anchovy catches off South America is good, and the El Niño effect is expected to be moderate. Consequently, supplies are expected to be good, and more anchovies will be going for reduction (fishmeal and fish oil). Prices will probably go down.

Based on recent surveys, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research stated that the 2016 class of Norwegian spring-spawning herring was the strongest year-class since 2004. ICES seems to agree, for they advised a quota of 588 562 tonnes for 2019. Following this announcement, the coastal states agreed on a quota in line with the ICES advice. The 2019 quota represents an increase of 53 percent compared to the 2018 quota. Norway gets the lion’s share, that is 429 650 tonnes or 73 percent. Of the total quota, Norway may catch up to 34 484 tonnes in the EU28 zone north of 62 degrees North. Similarly, the EU28 has the right to catch an equal amount in Norwegian waters.

While the MSC announced that certification for the Norwegian spring-spawning herring fishery would be extended, it also stated that certain improvements would have to be implemented fast. Management of the resource needs to be improved and a new condition of developing a precautionary harvest control was introduced. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game increased the TAC for the Togiak herring sac roe fishery slightly to 24 430 tonnes in 2019, up from 24 042 tonnes in 2018. The TAC is divided between purse seiners and gillnetters. Purse seiners get 80 percent of the TAC, leaving 20 percent for the gillnetters. The first anchovy season of 2019 in Peru’s southern region was set to begin on 8 January with a maximum TAC of 540 000 tonnes. The first season will last until June 30 or until the quota is filled.

Peru’s Ministry of Production does not expect El Niño to have any serious impact on the 2019 anchovy season. Apparently, the intensity of the El Niño will be mild to moderate in 2019. In the period from 2014 to 2016 the anchovy sector was hit hard by the El Niño effect. Peruvian anchovy landings dropped from 4.8 million tonnes in 2013 to just 2.3 million tonnes in 2014.

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