Small Pelgics

Further price falls expected

ICES recommended a 40 percent cut in the North Atlantic herring quota. The mackerel quota in this region was cut by 20 percent compared to 2017. Nevertheless, supplies of mackerel are expected to stay relatively stable. Prices are expected to decline. There has been a massive increase in landings of anchovies and the industry expects large quotas also for the second 2018 season.


The TAC for North Sea mackerel was set at 816 797 tonnes in 2018, about 20 percent below the quota for 2017. In this quota agreement between the EU28, Norway and the Faroe Islands, the share for the EU28 is set at 402 596 tonnes, Norway at 183 857 tonnes, and the Faroe Islands at 102 924 tonnes.

Supplies of frozen mackerel to the EU28 market increased slightly to 150 000 tonnes in 2017, after a weakening trend from 2014 (177 000 tonnes) to 2016 (140 000 tonnes). Mackerel supplies to the Asian markets have been increasing steadily since 2015, from about 190 000 tonnes to 240 000 tonnes in 2017. In 2017, the three main Asian markets for mackerel were China (87 800 tonnes), Japan (70 600 tonnes) and the Republic of Korea (38 600 tonnes). The African market for mackerel has been declining since 2014, when total supplies amounted to about 245 000 tonnes, and dropped to just 130 000 tonnes in 2017. The main supplier to Africa is the EU28 by far.

Norway exported 51 300 tonnes of mackerel worth NOK 654 million (USD 83.3 million) during the first quarter of 2018, 23 percent less by volume and 20 percent less by value compared to the same period in 2017. Turkey, the Republic of Korea and China were the largest markets for Norwegian mackerel during this period, accounting for 16.1 percent, 14.0 percent, and 12.2 percent, respectively.

Large amounts of Norwegian mackerel find its way to the Japanese market, either directly or through processing for example in China. In 2017 the direct export of mackerel from Norway to Japan amounted to 62 000 tonnes worth NOK 791 million (USD 98 million). Much of this was processed in the port city of Choshi, which is a centre for mackerel processing in Japan.

Chinese exports of mackerel (all types, including jack mackerel and horse mackerel) during the first three months of 2018 reached 102 400 tonnes, a 22.4 percent reduction compared to the same period in 2017. The main markets were Indonesia (25 400 tonnes, 24.8 percent of the total), Philippines (20 300, 19.8 percent of the total) and Nigeria (7 300 tonnes, 7.2 percent of the total).


ICES suggested to cut the 2019 North Sea herring quota by 40 percent to 291 572 tonnes. Recruitment has been relatively low since 2002. Ocean researchers point out that there have been several very poor years in the spawning stock. ICES also recommended that the quota for Baltic herring should be set at zero.

Norwegian herring exports during the first quarter of 2018 increased by 15 percent to 66 100 tonnes, though prices decreased and the export value declined by 2.7 percent to NOK 746 million (USD 91 million). The main markets were Egypt (12 100 tonnes or 18.4 percent of the total), Poland (12.1 percent of the total) and Lithuania (10.9 percent of total).

According to the NSC prices for Norwegian herring this year were at the lowest level since 2011, despite the decreasing quota. Herring exports during the first quarter of 2018 increased by 18 percent to 89 000 tonnes, but the value fell by 13 percent to NOK 756 million (USD 96.2 million). The main markets were Germany, Poland and Lithuania.

Exports of herring by the Russian Federation increased by 34.8 percent to 65 007 tonnes during the first quarter of 2018, compared to the same period of 2017. China absorbed 75.3 percent of this total volume (49 000 tonnes), Nigeria imported 11.4 percent (7 400 tonnes) and the Republic of Korea 7.9 percent (5 200 tonnes).

Germany, the major European market for herring, increased herring imports to 24 100 tonnes (+9.1 percent) during the first three months of 2018, mainly supplied by Poland (41.2 percent of the total), Denmark (27.6 percent of the total) and Norway (17.3 percent of the total).


The US West Coast sardine stocks are suffering again. Almost 30 years ago, it seemed that the stock had recovered. However, according to a recent assessment by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the West Coast population of Pacific sardines has now declined by more than 95 percent. The sardine population tends to fluctuate significantly for natural reasons, but this massive collapse is thought to have been brought on by overharvesting. In 2012, NMFS cautioned that the stock was threatened by another collapse, but the Pacific Fishery Management Council disregarded the warning claiming there was not enough evidence to justify a moratorium. Currently, it may take another 20 years to rebuild the stocks, according to scientists.

Some stakeholders deny the grimness of the situation. The California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA) questions the assessment by NMFS, arguing that the methods used were flawed. While the NMFS survey states that the stock has gone down from 86 585 tonnes in 2017 to 52 000 tonnes in 2018, the CWPA claims that by using a different method and assumptions, calculations show that the stocks have gone up from 86 586 tonnes to 153 020 tonnes.

The Portuguese ban on sardine fishing, which was expected to last until the end of April, was extended until mid-May. Fishermen will be able to catch up to 4 855 tonnes of sardines until the end of July. In 2017, there was a total ban on this fishery. Apparently, the measures introduced are working to restore the stocks.

The Norwegian blue whiting fishery ended in the beginning of May, after a very good season. A total of 419 000 tonnes were sold and prices were fairly high, reaching NOK 2.15 (USD 0.27) per kg at the end of the season was, compared to NOK 1.47 (USD 0.18) per kg in 2017.


Global supplies of mackerel are expected to increase with declining prices. Supplies of Atlantic herring will most likely be reduced in 2019, but prices are expected to remain low. Both mackerel and herring are suffering from a lack of access to the market of the Russian Federation and the situation is not expected to change. Sardine and anchovy supplies are likely to be good, though a large part of the catch of these species will be directed to reduction purposes.