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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The fishing industry now relies on data to administer the CFP - who can provide the data? - scientists or fishermen?

Nowadays commercial fishing in EU waters means many fish are subjected to quotas. The amount of each species that can be caught - Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is determined by scientific data collected in the main by research vessels and landings of fish.

In order for changes to quotas to be made in a more timely fashion in the wake of the newly negotiated CFP and discards legislsation the industry must push for the scientific community to make more use of those best placed to provide the data needed - the fishermen.

At last week's Channel Scallop Workshop Jim Portus spoke of such a need - this meeting brought together fishermen and industry players from both sides of the channel desperate to avoid sensationalist headlines like those that appeared in the nationals, the so-called 'Scallop Wars'

This is what he said:
“We have heard from scientists in the UK and in France – they are frustrated due to lack of resources from Government departments. We in the industry have said “we've got the platforms, come out on our boats and gather the data – teach us to become gatherers of data”. Fishermen are willing to do that, but they need to be guided which takes time and resources…but it can happen, and I think it should happen, and I hope it does happen”  
Jim Portus, Chief Exec, South Western Fish Producer Organisation.

As an industry we need to become the major provider of hard evidence of fish stocks so that areas like the North Sea where huge increases in cod and other fish being caught does not get accounted for in stock assessment in a timely manner.

 logging fish data on Newlyn fish market - data of fish landed not caught
Here's an example of why:
Fish species 'X' has a small monthly quota. The skipper knows that over the course of that month he is going to catch the quota easily - maybe in a few hauls and for the subsequent months over the rest of the year. Consequently he will retain on board only the biggest fish - because bigger fish make better money and therefore more economic sense - any small fish will go back over the side.
As above, the field staff from Cefas and the MMO log the size of the fish being landed on UK markets. 
Significant amounts of data collected on fish markets throughout the EU are used to assess the recruitment of fish stocks based on the size of fish being caught. If, on the market the field workers are only seeing large fish (ie the ones the skipper has chosen to land for economic reasons) the obvious conclusion is that as there are small amounts of small fish compared to much bigger fish then recruitment for that year must be poor! 
Result? The scientific evidence collected is potentially flawed and gives the wrong impression as to the size of stocks - pollack would be a good example of this in the South West.