Stock of golden redfish in the Barents Sea
Last updated 7 February 2023
The golden redfish (Sebastes norvegicus) is classified as a threatened species. The population is small and continues to fall. Measures to improve the situation have been initiated in recent years.
What is being monitored?
Stock in the Barents Sea
The graph shows estimated sizes of mature and immature stock of the golden redfish in the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea. Combined this gives the total stock.
Data from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research expeditions and from the trawler fisheries shows a clear reduction in the population of golden redfish, and the population is now at the lowest level that has ever been measured.
(Cite these data: Institute of Marine Research (2023). Stock of golden redfish in the Barents Sea. Environmental monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen (MOSJ). URL: https://mosj.no/en/indikator/fauna/marine-fauna/golden-redfish-stock-in-the-barents-sea/)
Details on these data
|Last updated||7 February 2023|
|Next update||February 2024|
|Commissioning organization||Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fishery|
|Executive organization||Institute of Marine Research|
|Contact persons||Hannes Höffle|
The indicator describes the size of the stock of golden redfish and how it changes over time.
The stock is monitored by researchers at the Institute of Marine Research who go on annual expeditions, as well as through data collected from the fisheries.
The data enter into a model which is used to estimate the stock size of the golden redfish. The results from this model, amongst other the size of the spawning stock, is made available for ICES when they make stock assessments.
An improved model for estimating population size has been formally used for the first time following approval by ICES in 2012. A lack of coverage of the golden redfish’s geographical spread as well as weaknesses in the expedition programme somewhat reduce the quality of the data used in the model.
It is desirable to have an improved coverage of stock through costal expeditions and genetic identification of sub-populations. Data for identification of sub-populations will be collected by the reference-fleet, a selection of Norwegian fishing vessels who give the Institute of Marine Research in-depth information about their harvest’s as well as their fishing activities in general.
ICES has databases with stock data.
Reference level and action level
The reference level is the precautionary limit for the spawning stock (not known). The action limit is when the estimated spawning stock is below the precautionary limit for the spawning stock.
Reference level: critical spawning level (Blim) multiplied by ICES standard multiplicator of 1.4: precautionary level for the spawning stock (Bpa) = 68 600 tonnes.
Action level: lowest spawning biomass where good recruiting was observed: Critical spawning stock level (Blim) = 49 000 tonnes.
Status and trend
Data from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research expeditions and from the trawler fisheries shows a clear reduction in the population of common redfish, and the population is now at the lowest level that has ever been measured.
The population has seen little recruitment since the late 1990s. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) considers that the population has a reduced reproductive capacity and is now at its lowest ever level. Better recruitment in individual year-classes since 2003 led to an increase in immature stocks, while the total stock measured in tonnes fell further due to higher weights of mature redfish in the catch. There is also a risk that some of the registered fry belong to the larger beaked redfish stock, since the species are identical in appearance at the fry stage.
Given the low production of common redfish at the present time, the population is expected to remain weak for several years.
Preliminary numbers for 2020 shows a total international harvest of approximately 9000 tonnes, while harvest in 2019 and 2018 was approximately 8300 and 6700 tonnes. Norwegian fisheries stood for 65 percent of the total harvest in 2019, mainly as bycatch.
The common redfish population is affected by both natural conditions, such as sea temperature and the occurrence of fish that eat redfish, and human activity, including fishing.
The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea assesses the population to be very weak and recommends a total ban on fishing, the closure of fishing grounds and strict regulation of bycatches.
The common redfish is classified as endangered (EN) in the Norwegian Red List 2015. The spawning population is very weak and is still declining. If catches continue at the level of recent years (9000 tonnes a year) and recruitment remains at the average level of the years 2001-2011, the model in use indicates that the population will collapse in the near future.
Therefore, with an exception for a very restricted line fishery, a ban has been introduced on all direct fishing for common redfish. In addition, regulations have been introduced to prevent unwanted bycatch of redfish in other fisheries.
It is important to maintain the ban on direct fishing and that the permitted limit for bycatches is set as low as possible until a clear increase in the spawning population and young fish has been confirmed.
If the redfish population is managed responsibly, it should be possible to re-establish it. Its relative the beaked redfish is a good example of this. How quickly this can occur will also be partly dependent on the size of the fish population that eats redfish.
About the monitoring
The stock of golden redfish is at a critically low level due to previous overfishing, and the species is classified as Endangered (EN) according to the Red List. It is important to monitor it to get good estimates and correct assessments of the population size to maintain sustainable fisheries in the long term.
Golden redfish live at a depth of 100–500 metres on the continental shelf, along the coast and in some places in the fjords. The species is distributed north to northwest of Spitsbergen. Juvenile redfish feed on zooplankton, whereas older redfish feed on krill, capelin, herring and cod. Small redfish are important food for cod and halibut.
Golden redfish spawn free-living larvae in April-May, in a spawning area that mainly cover the area along the shelf break and the continental slope from Shetland to north of Andøya, by Storegga, Haltenbanken and Vesterålen.
Places and areas
Relations to other monitoring
International environmental agreements
- JointFish – The Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission
- International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES)
Voluntary international cooperation