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German fisheries in the North Sea and Baltic Sea


Shrimp boat in the North Sea. Photo: Katrin Wollny-Goerke
Shrimp boat in the North Sea. Photo: Katrin Wollny-Goerke

Offshore and coastal fishing in the North Sea

German fisheries distinguish between distant-water fishing, middle-water fishing and coastal fishing:

The German distant-water fishing fleet – which had only nine vessels in 2013 – operates all over the world.

Middle-water fishing refers to fishing with large trawlers, mostly 18 to 32 metres long and with an engine size between 300 and 600 HP. The main type of fishing gear used is the bottom trawl with otter boards. A number of larger trawlers in the North Sea, however, are nearly twice as powerful and work with beam trawls.

Coastal fishing, by contrast, is dominated by smaller trawlers referred to as eurocutters. These are mostly 18 to 24 metres in length and have engine sizes of up to 300 HP; some vessels are smaller. The boundary between this category and the middle-water fishing fleet is blurred.

Smaller vessels have smaller crews, their fishing grounds are mostly closer inshore and they tend to have shorter trip durations. The main type of fishing gear used in coastal fishing is the beam trawl.

Importance of shrimp and flatfish for North Sea fisheries

The German North Sea coastal fishery primarily harvests shrimp (Crangon crangon) and flatfish such as plaice, sole and dab, mostly using beam trawls. These are key target species, as the landing figures show.

The commercially most important species in middle-water fishing are pollock, herring, mackerel and cod. The table below provides a good overview.


Some key target species in the North Sea
Species Fishing gear Landings–North Sea (2012) Landings-German vessels MSY* exploitation rate
Plaice Beam trawl (60 %) Otter trawl (36 %) 71,200 t 3.700 t Yes
Sole Beam trawl (84 %) Bottom set net (14 %) 11,800 t 416 t No
North Sea shrimp Beam trawl 32,300 t 12,577 t No stock manage-
ment
Cod Mostly bottom trawl 33,200 t 1,811 t No
Pollock Mostly bottom trawl 77,100 t (inc. west of
Scotland)
6,742 t Yes; stock status unfavourable
Herring Pelagic trawl 405,000 t 24,500 t Yes; stock status uncertain
Sprat Pelagic trawl 134,000 t 6,870 t (inc. Baltic Sea) Yes; stock status uncertain
Mackerel Pelagic trawl or purse seine 893,000 t (North-East At-lantic) 19,000 t No
Sandeel Bottom trawl 101,300 t 1,700 t No

Table: Some key target species in the North Sea. (Source: DUH leaflet, Lebendige Nordsee, p. 23 – see PDF):
Lebendige Nordsee. Beispiele für vorbildliche Fangmethoden und ihre Anwendbarkeit auf den Nordseeraum, 2014 (PDF 3.8 Mb, in german only)

*MSY: The Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) is the largest yield or catch that does not endanger reproduction and stock replenishment while ensuring high yields for the longer term.


Coastal fishing boat with set nets. Photo: Katrin Wollny-Goerke
Coastal fishing boat with set nets. Photo: Katrin Wollny-Goerke

Baltic Sea fisheries

Most of the German boats that fish in the Baltic Sea are smaller than their North Sea peers. Few exceed 12 metres in length. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, for example, a total of 748 fishing vessels were registered in 2011 by 428 fishing operations, only 32 of which were more than 12 metres long. About a third of fishing operations were on a part-time basis.

Vessel sizes reflect the type of fishing gear deployed. Most larger vessels with larger engine sizes in the Baltic Sea fishery are equipped with (pelagic) trawls, while the smaller vessels predominantly use passive fishing gear such as set nets. The main fishing method used by 88 percent of the Germany fishing vessels registered in the Baltic Sea comprises (anchored) set nets, whereas about 9% are recorded as using trawls.


Cod (Gadus morhua) – one of the most important target species in the Baltic Sea fisheries. Photo: Thurid Otto (BfN)
Cod (Gadus morhua) – one of the most important target species in the Baltic Sea fisheries. Photo: Thurid Otto (BfN)

Cod, herring and sprat the most important target species in the Baltic Sea

The most important target species in the German Baltic Sea fisheries are sprat, herring and cod; these account for more than 87 percent of landings. Fishing ef-fort and catches are not evenly distributed, however, and there is pronounced seasonal and also spatial variation.

The cod is the commercially most important target species. More than 60 percent of the quota is caught with pelagic trawls and about 40 percent with set nets.

The main fishing seasons for the German herring fishery are spring (March/April) and in Western Pomeranian waters also autumn (September/October), when herring migrate to German Baltic Sea waters to spawn. The main types of fishing gear are pelagic trawls and – primarily in the coastal fishery – set nets.

Most set nets used in the German Baltic Sea are either gillnets or trammel nets. With single-walled gillnets, fish become entangled in the mesh by their gills or gill covers and fins. With multiple-walled trammel nets, fish encounter the nar-rower meshed net, push it through the outer, wider meshed net and become en-tangled in the resulting pocket of webbing. The various net types and mesh sizes are selected according to the species and size of fish. The depth at which set nets are deployed also varies according to fish species and habits. Hence there are both bottom set nets and surface set nets.

 

Further information is provided in a DUH leaflet, “Living Baltic Sea (german)”, compiled with support from BfN:
Lebendige Ostsee
Beispiele für vorbildliche Fangmethoden und ihre Anwendbarkeit auf den Ostseeraum. (PDF 2,3 MB, in german only)

 
 

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