Collection of Fisheries Information and Fishing Data by the IFG Network

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1 Collection of Fisheries Information and Fishing Data by the IFG Network Discussion Paper for IFG Meetings 1. Introduction 1.1 The need to collect basic fishing data to inform management considerations of existing or new fisheries has been recognised as a priority within all the pilot IFG Fisheries Management Plans. The 2013 Inshore Fisheries Conference key outcomes also identified that the collection of local fisheries data was fundamental in order to inform rational management decisions and work towards sustainable fisheries. The development of a nationally co-ordinated system to collect such information using, and for use by, the IFG network and local fishermen is seen as a priority by Marine Scotland. 1.2 While IFG Fisheries Management Plans have variously considered fisheries data collection through schemes such as log books, permits or survey work etc limited consideration of compilation, interpretation, verification, reporting and database storage, together with compatibility with neighbouring IFG schemes or national measures and science programmes has been evident. Both the scientific and fisheries management communities recognise that day to day raw data collected by fishermen actively engaged in the fisheries, is likely to be a major contribution to understanding the status of the fishery and related fish stocks. It is also recognised that collection of data by fishermen has an inherent cost to them in time and effort and that such costs need to be acceptable, manageable and proportionate. Given such an inherent cost it is extremely important that the information requested from fishermen is of relevance to the decision making process, can be robustly analysed and interpreted, is able to be collated and reported back to the IFG membership, and can help to inform the management process from both stock management and fisheries management perspectives. 1.3 This discussion paper aims to identify priority considerations relating to IFG fisheries data collection and how such data could be collected and reported by working fishermen. Given the extensive and often mobile nature of fish stocks it is important that all IFGs have a common system of reporting which allows comparison within and between IFG areas. Not with standing this in some IFG areas there may be a desire to collect additional information such as social, economic or environmental data in support of protecting or developing existing or new fisheries. 2. Information Requirements? 2.1 In order for inshore fisheries to be managed effectively and be sustainable in the long term there is a need to match fishing effort to available stock. Consequently information on both the amount of fishing activity taking place in any one area, the type of gear deployed and the biological status of the fish stocks being exploited is required.

2 2.2 Evidence upon which fisheries can be assessed for sustainability can be generated from both empirical fisheries data such as catch and effort and from biological data such as fish length frequency and sex ratios etc. However, each data set and collection procedure has limitations in describing the health of the fishery or in terms of resources (cost) required to undertake it, and in real life a combination of the two is likely to gain the fullest understanding of any fishery. 2.3 In seeking to manage inshore fisheries the IFGs will need to respond to local conditions while meeting requirements to collectively act as a national network for fisheries management. Given this there are a range of considerations regarding; what collected information is to be used for? how it is to be collected? the analysis, assessment and reporting of findings? understanding the long term implications for the fishery? 2.4 The basis for establishing IFGs was to create a system whereby inshore fisheries were managed sustainably (fishing activity in balance with the available fish stocks and environment on a long term basis) with fishermen having a key role within the decision making process. This does not require all fishermen to become fisheries managers but rather to engage in the process and make collective decisions based on the information available. What is the information to be used for? 2.5 In all cases the basic requirement for each IFG is to determine the sustainability of fisheries within their areas based on knowledge of fishing activity and the health of the respective fish stocks. It is therefore considered that each IFG will need to collect basic catch and effort data from all vessels operating at any given location within their area. In order to make such information comparable and available for national inshore (0-12nm) fishery management considerations this would need to be a standardised system. 2.6 In some cases individual IFGs may wish to collect additional information in support of fishing activities within their area. Economic, social, or environmental data may be required for fishery accreditation purposes or for marine planning initiatives to maintain access to fishing grounds. If fishing information is required for such uses it would be up to the IFG to collect and assess it as it saw fit using best practice where available. How would information be collected? 2.7 The practicalities of working fishermen collecting and reporting fishing information are discussed in detail within section 4. The collection process has to take account of both the requirement for specific information and how such information will be utilised towards the goal of managing a sustainable fishery.

3 Information analysis, assessment, and reporting? 2.8 The information gathered under the standardised system for catch and effort reporting operated by the IFGs would form the basis of sustainability assessment for each fishery. Such a task requires scientific expertise and the ability to compile extensive data bases of information over time. In addition the process would be supported through the provision of additional scientific assessment relating to the characteristics of the stocks being exploited. National monitoring programmes already exist for assessing size classes of fish within a stock, sex ratios, age at maturity etc and it is anticipated that such monitoring would contribute to the stock assessment process. In addition on a localised basis there would be scope for such scientific sampling to be undertaken on a case by case basis to enhance or accelerate understanding of localised stock characteristics. The compilation of all available information would be reported to the IFG on a regular basis depending on the nature of the fishery. It will be important that such reporting is readily applicable to those who operate within the fishery and is able to be considered in relation to relevant fishing activity levels. Understanding the long term implications for the fishery? 2.9 The progressive accumulation of information within fisheries databases over time will allow a picture of the fishery and fish stock to be established. Such a position will permit an assessment of the health of the fishery whether it is sustainable, under or over exploited etc and upon such an assessment management decisions by the IFG can be based. It is extremely important that the IFG receives such advice based on an expert assessment of the information available. Equally the members of the IFG will need to consider such advice in the context of their experience of operating within the fishery on a daily basis It is anticipated that as information held on any fishery is built up the IFG will increasingly be in a position to set targets for outputs and use them to monitor the fishery. One example would be a local standard set for average total catch per 100 creel hauls. If over time the average fell below a set level the IFG could agree to investigate the reason, if this figure continued to fall the IFG may wish to restrict the fishery until an improvement was evident etc. Equally targets may be set on the basis of the average size of individuals caught over time etc. 3. Support System for Data Compilation and Analysis 3.1 The North Atlantic Fisheries College (NAFC) Marine Centre has extensive expertise and experience in the monitoring and scientific assessment of inshore fish stocks and particularly shellfish. In addition to the compilation of fisheries catch and effort data the NAFC currently undertake a programme of scientific work to complement the understanding of inshore fisheries around Shetland. Biological monitoring includes fish stock age profiles, sex ratios and length/frequency measurements both at sea and on land for catches and landings. The work undertaken by the NAFC has helped local fisheries to become accredited as sustainable. 3.2 The analysis and reporting model used by the NAFC is proven in delivering fishery assessments that are of practical benefit to the fishery managers and

4 fishermen. Reporting is anonymised with fishing location or catches not able to be attributed to any particular fishing vessel. 3.3 The urgent need identified within IFG Fisheries Management Plans to secure information on fish stocks and fishing activities, upon which to build a system of inshore fisheries management has been recognised by Marine Scotland. One of the key outcomes from the 2013 Inshore Fisheries Conference was the requirement to develop with inshore fishermen a system for recording fishing activity. While the immediate priority is to develop a data collection system suitable for operation by fishermen it has been recognised that a complementary system needs to be in place to collate, analyse and report on the data gathered from all IFG areas. 3.4 Marine Scotland have taken account of this potential bottleneck in the current national ability to maintain an extensive database of local fisheries information and provide analysis and reporting services for each of the IFGs. In order to overcome this and allow the IFGs to progress with data collection, funding has been made available to contract the NAFC Marine Centre to instigate a system of data handling, analysis and interpretation services for the IFGs. 3.5 The ability to immediately access data handling, storage and analysis expertise for key inshore fisheries in Scottish waters is a major advantage in terms of not having to develop a system from scratch. However, with local management a key objective there is a desire that with partners from the UHI network (and other Scottish research institutes outside of the Highlands and Islands) over time and with experience built up by all the participants, the standardised data handling and reporting of inshore fisheries information could be contracted to local institutions by the IFGs. 3.6 The fisheries data collected by the IFGs and processed by the appropriate bodies would be distributed using reports issued directly to the respective IFGs. Such information together with any other which the IFG may decide to commission would allow an understanding of each fishery and support management decisions. This would appear to be a suitably cost effective way of handling large amounts of information while maintaining the anonymity of individual vessels, and ensuring each IFG received a standardised format of management information and advice. Such an approach would allow the IFG membership to understand and be able to question the evidence upon which they would base management decisions. It is important to state that the advice from the data analysing bodies would relate to the information processed and possible factors contributing to the status of the fishery/fish stock. Management advice would not be prescriptive in terms of what the IFG should do but may indicate a range of options available to the IFG. 3.7 While the collation, analysing and reporting of fisheries information can be undertaken using the existing processes operated by the NAFC, the collection of fishing data by the IFGs (and importantly individual fishermen operating in their areas) needs to be developed. It should be recognised that any such scheme would be initially based on a voluntary approach to record and report information. It is hoped that the benefits and long term goals of such a scheme will be evident to all fishermen who wish to prosecute sustainable fisheries. However, once an acceptable and workable system is established by the IFGs the option exists for the collection of data

5 by all fishing vessels working within Scottish inshore waters to be made a fishing vessel licence condition. 4. IFG Fishing Information Requirements? 4.1 The basic requirements to allow an empirical approach to monitoring the status of any inshore fishery and fish stock over time are; Fishing Location, date and time Vessel description (Registration No./size) Gear type and quantity deployed Activity/target species (effort and duration/bait used) Catch (landings plus live returns) 4.2 In addition the following information would provide a more complete picture of the fishery and should be considered as a basic requirement in many instances; Reasons for and quantities of live returns (undersized, soft, berried etc) Bycatch of non target commercial fish/shellfish species Bycatch of non commercial fish species General weather (24/48h wind direction/strength/rain etc) 4.3 While the above may seem to be straight forward to collect there are a range of practical considerations to ensure any such reporting scheme is workable and encourages participation by commercial fishermen. Some of the considerations are listed below and it is viewed as important that discussions are instigated at the individual IFG level to ensure a workable system can be developed for all fisheries and respective fishing vessels. Not with standing this there should also be a realisation that if a national framework for inshore fisheries information is to be established a prescribed set of rules will be required and to which all vessels in inshore waters will have to subscribe. Given this it is hoped that the IFGs will be able to reach agreement on the basic provisions of any such scheme. 4.4 Reporting Requirement? Voluntary scheme? or; National vessel licence condition for inside 6nm? Recreational landings from shore fishing to be reported? o Voluntarily by individuals? (SSACN) o Voluntarily by vessels sea fishing? 4.5 Fishery Location? Reporting within 5nm chart square or GPS Lat./Long.? or; Vessel monitoring system for all sizes of boats? o Succorfish 4.6 Method/Frequency of Reporting? Recording requirement while at sea or once landed? Paper returns or ? o Website for secure reporting? Frequency daily/weekly/fortnightly? Combine with existing shellfish landings reporting?

6 Stand alone reporting from Buyers and Sellers process? 4.7 Detail to be recorded? Vessel identification/trip date/time start/duration? General weather conditions over last days/week etc? Gear type (total No. creels (soak time)/rigging specification of trawl etc) Fishing activity (No creels hauled/frequency. Tow duration/no tows etc) Fishing location (5nm square/lat-long/vms tracking etc?) Target fishery (Nephrops and/or crab and or lobster and/or scallop etc) Catch (numbers or boxes or weight?) Returns (numbers/boxes/weight. Reason undersize, soft, berried, species etc)? Landings (numbers or boxes or weight of each species/size class)? Observations (egg settlement on creels/juvenile fin fish in creels etc?? 5. Starting the Data Recording Process 5.1 The lists in section 4 are not exhaustive and are not intended to be prescriptive at this stage. It is extremely important that each IFG area has the opportunity to discuss the issues of data collection with the working fishermen who will have to undertake it on a day to day basis. 5.2 MS commitment for fisheries data collection from the 2013 Inshore Fisheries Conference was reported as Marine Scotland will work with every IFG to agree what data is required, what the reporting form should look like, and have a standard simple form used by everyone to collect the data. 5.3 From such discussions within individual IFGs it is hoped that a national system of basic fisheries data reporting can be rapidly developed. The potential exists for individual IFGs to pilot data reporting within their areas at the earliest opportunity on the basis of a paper based approach. Findings from such work would allow the refinement of the process to be adopted nationally and place the IFG in a positive position of gathering information on fishing activities at the earliest opportunity. Under such an approach the IFG may wish to gather additional information over and above that for basic fisheries management. Social, economic or environmental data may be of use in support of fishing communities within the Marine Planning process. 5.4 The potential use of vessel monitoring systems such as Succorfish for under 12m vessels to secure fisheries information is currently being evaluated by Marine Scotland. One trial is considering the practicalities of fishing vessel location information to aid fisheries management while a separate investigation is looking at the potential within a marine spatial planning context. Findings will be assessed in relation to the development of a fisheries data network by the IFGs. 5.5 Progress towards agreement on a national framework for fisheries data collection by the IFGs will be reported on at the 2014 Inshore Fisheries Conference.

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