Well, that’s me over 2 months into my role at SWFPA. For those that don’t know me, the bulk of my career has seen me heavily involved in and managing;
- Research vessel demersal surveys
- Observer sampling on commercial vessels
- Sampling of landings at ports and factories.
It is with this background that I spent my first few weeks attending Benchmark Workshops at the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES). ICES advice for fisheries is based on annual fish stock assessments with the methodology for these assessments being evaluated every 3 – 5 years in a benchmark process. The aim being to have a consensus agreement on assessment methodology that is to be used in future update assessments.
However, the outcome of these meetings tended to demonstrate that success in advancing the methodologies is dependent on the input of the relevant member states with direct interest in the relevant stocks. For example, several anglerfish stocks have now been moved from a Data Limited Stock (DLS) classification to being fully assessed whereas Northern Shelf Anglerfish stocks remain as a Data Limited Stock with annual advice based on the outcomes of the industry / science surveys. The DLS process incorporates a precautionary approach that limits advice change to 20%, a situation that many believe has resulted in catch advice not reflecting the state of the stock.
The clear message that I took from these workshops was the need for industry to engage at the earliest opportunity in the process as reduced resources at Marine Scotland Science appeared to hamper provision of data and meaningful dialogue with stakeholders pre-benchmark.
During the workshops, SWFPA stressed the willingness of industry to engage at the earliest opportunity and, more importantly, our desire to contribute to provision of data, information and science that will help provide robust stock advice for the stocks that we depend on.
Having attended recent SWFPA Committee meetings, members were quite clear that we engage directly with Marine Scotland Science with West of Scotland cod and whiting being obvious stocks that could benefit from additional information on stock structure and improved spatial information on catches.
In the coming months, I will be liaising with staff at the Marine Laboratory to investigate how SWFPA fishermen can help address the weaknesses and data shortfalls that currently hinder stock assessment.
Written by Kenny Coull – Fisheries Policy Officer