Observer scheme delivers net benefits

Fraserburgh Harbour.
Fraserburgh Harbour.

A joint Scottish fishing industry and Marine Scotland initiative that helps ensure fisheries management decisions are based upon informed advice is set to undergo a major expansion in the amount of data collected and used.

There will be a significant increase this year in the quantity of fish catch information collected by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) Onboard Observer Scheme and used by Marine Scotland Science (MSS) as part of the international stock assessment process.

The utilisation of such independent fisheries information from fishing boats over a broad sweep of inshore and offshore areas complements Marine Scotland’s own sampling work and ensures the provision of much more comprehensive stock data than would otherwise be possible. The SFF and MSS have worked collaboratively to develop the robust statistically designed programme of sampling which underpins the initiative.

This in turn leads to better informed fisheries management decisions and is particularly important for stocks where data was previously limited. Under current Common Fisheries Policy regulations, data limited stocks often undergo annual catch reductions, despite the fact that they could be in a healthy state.

It is estimated that data deficient stocks represent approximately a third of the total value of demersal species landed by Scottish vessels, with a value of around £40m.

First launched in 2008 the EFF funded Onboard Observer Scheme has now been developed and expanded to the extent that it makes a major contribution in the overall stock assessment process.

Kenny Coull, SFF Marine Policy Officer, said:

“The major plus point of the Onboard Observer Scheme is that it covers a huge area of our seas, both inshore and offshore, and provides a much more comprehensive data source than was previously possible.

“Such information will be particularly crucial this year because of the impending introduction of the discard ban for our demersal fleets.”