FIS-commissioned report facilitates self-sampling programme across Scottish pelagic fleet.

Stock assessments can be embroiled in mistrust and uncertainty. Fishermen often question scientific surveys and sampling schemes, and scientists can doubt the reliability of catch data.

Fisheries Innovation and Sustainability (FIS) asked the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SPFA) and the University of Aberdeen to look at opportunities to improve both trust and data quality on either side.

The project, which included the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA) and Marine Scotland Science, resulted in a feasibility study into a scientific self-sampling programme for the pelagic sector.

Experience shows that successful self-sampling schemes rely on effective feedback to fishermen, particularly in relation to what their data shows and how it is being used. This feedback helps to improve confidence in science and management and reinforces effective collaboration between industry, science and management on achieving sustainable and profitable fisheries.

The pelagic industry lends itself to a self-sampling programme because pelagic fishermen want to engage with science and have a direct stake in the information they generate. They are also early adopters of new innovations and indeed they already record substantial quantities of data that describe where and when they fished, what they caught, and in some cases, environmental and biological information. They are willing, and have the capability and capacity, to do more.

This new FIS report identifies opportunities for the Scottish pelagic industry to collect and contribute relevant data to support the assessment of stocks and management of fisheries. It describes the requirements of a scientific self-sampling programme and what such a programme might look like. It also discusses how self-sampling schemes might help to address information needs in less data rich situations, such as those in demersal and Nephrops fisheries.

The report author, Dr Steven Mackinson, Chief Scientific Officer at the SFPA, said “Working with FIS on this project allowed us to identify the essential building blocks of a successful self-sampling scheme.

“The SFPA, the NAFC Marine Centre and Marine Scotland have already used this information to design a pilot study to collect samples of fish length and weight during the fishing seasons for mackerel, herring and blue whiting. Analysis from this pilot will be used to finalise the design of a self-sampling programme to be implemented across the Scottish pelagic fleet.”

Click here to read the report.

Article image: Seafish