Fisheries Biology


This research group specialises in collecting both biological and ecosystem data with the objective to provide biological advice for the European Common Fisheries Policy. The focus is on the Belgian fisheries and its fished species and areas. In addition, attention is paid to the impact on both quota and non-quota fish species by using alternative fishing techniques. The following information is available, among others: data about the fleet capacity, the landings and discards of fish, the catch composition, fishery-independent data from surveys with research vessels, economic data with regard to fleets, aquaculture and the fish processing industry and biological data (length, weight, age, etc) of caught fish, shellfish and crustaceans. On the basis of these data, stock estimates and catch predictions are carried out on any stocks that may be or are of economic importance to the Belgian fisheries sector.


  • Stock Assessments and Policy Advice for the Fisheries Sector
    At the request of ICES (International Council for Exploration of the Sea), the European Commission and other clients, Belgium contributes to the status assessment of the fish stocks that are the most important to our country. These include plaice, sole, cod, whiting, hake, turbot and brill. Belgium supplies information to the ICES working groups along with the other European countries. These data originate from the sampling programmes of landings and discards. Some of the tasks of this group are to carry out preparatory work for the working groups, such as making an analysis of basic monitoring data (market sampling, surveys and catch statistics), as well as making assessments of a number of stocks before the start of the working group.
    Products delivered:
    • Descriptions of the current status of fish stocks and marine ecosystems.
    • Biological advisory opinions in support of the management of fisheries through international organisations such as ICES and STECF (Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries of the European Commission).
    • Presenting ICES advice to the Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries and other stakeholders.
    • Working documents containing analyses and interim reports intended for international working groups and advisory bodies.
    • Contributions to various national and international consultation structures with regard to fisheries research and fisheries management.
    • Reports - in the form of memorandums - addressed to colleagues and authorities in charge of policy implementation, summarising the results and conclusions of the working and advisory groups. Upon request, an oral explanation or presentation can be given.
  • Fish Market Sampling and Surveys at Sea.
    In keeping with a statistically justified sampling schedule, sea-going observers register and analyse the catches (landings & discards) on board commercial fishing vessels. Parameters registered are numbers, weight, length frequency, age and maturity.
    Products delivered:
    • A database with random samples of length frequency, age and biological data on the collected samples as well as the related catch composition and fishing data of the cruises during which the samples have been collected.
    • Age-length keys (ALK) for reprocessing the catch data of landings in Belgium for the fish species concerned for the benefit of the status assessment by the ICES working groups.
    • Manual market sampling 2009.
    • Procedures and protocols regarding market and at sea sampling.
  • Monitoring By-Catches.
    In keeping with a statistically justified sampling schedule, sea-going observers can register and analyse the by-catch on board commercial fishing vessels per second tow. Parameters that are registered are numbers, weight, length frequency, and age.
    Products delivered:
    • The collected data are registered in a central database.
    • A separate report is drawn up of cruises during which by-catches of marine mammals are observed.
    • The contribution of discard research results to ICES working groups.
    • The contribution of discard research results to the STECF working group ‘SGMOS’.
    • Updating manuals containing sampling procedures.
  • Determining the Age of a Fish.
    The sustainable management of fish stocks requires an in-depth knowledge of the current status of fish stocks. A ‘healthy’ fish stock requires propagating individuals, so that the fish caught are replaced by young fish (recruitment). Depending on the species, it takes a number of years before a fish is sexually mature. Sustainable fisheries require that these fish must first be allowed to propagate before they are fished. The correct determination of a the age of a fish, is of vital importance for biological research, since contemporary population models use age-at-catch data. Routine market samplings and discard samplings as well as surveys (both fishery-dependent and fishery-independent) are carried out. These include the age determination of different fish species in different fishing areas.
  • Determining Fish Species and Giving Advice for an Accurate Commercial Denomination.
    At the request of companies, organisations and private individuals, a team of experienced scientists can determine the correct name of landed and imported fish species. Traders/importers can use this correct denomination in their marketing campaigns. This is especially important for legal liability.


Els Torreele