The recently agreed 2019 EU quota regulation recognised the need to ensure that mixed fisheries were not closed due to the presence of species with zero catch advice, such as west of Scotland cod and whiting. By-catch TACs for cod and whiting were agreed on condition that measures were adopted to ensure that catches of these species are reduced where possible.
The regulation stresses that Member States are required to “prepare a by-catch reduction plan to ensure that by-catches of the stocks for which ICES has issued zero catch advice for 2019 are reduced through selectivity or avoidance measures. Bycatch reduction plans will contain measures such as more selective gears, area closures, real time closures, avoidance measures and move-on rules.”
An automated system for sharing information on catches of cod and whiting in “real-time” is currently in development by SFO, University of Aberdeen and Chordata LLC. It is anticipated that the system will be piloted in the west of Scotland mixed whitefish fishery in 2019.
What is real-time reporting?
Real-time reporting (RTR) offers a method for monitoring and controlling catches of cod and whiting on the west coast of Scotland in ICES Division VIa. The system provides a mechanism whereby cod catches can be reported in “real-time” shortly after each haul. A report is generated with details of total cod and whiting catches. If catches are above an agreed threshold, an automatic alert is triggered detailing high abundances of cod or whiting in a specific area. These reports are sent out to vessels participating in the program, enabling fishermen to avoid concentrations of unwanted cod and/or whiting.
Benefits of real time reporting
Real-time reporting can, along with appropriate at-sea observer coverage, provide a range of fisheries management benefits not available through more controversial alternatives such as remote electronic monitoring (REM). RTR can provide an improved understanding of the spatial and temporal distribution of cod and whiting in VIa. It also provides fishermen with the necessary information to allow them to avoid high concentrations of cod/whiting, which have been problematic in the past. It can lead to improved resolution of catch data and potentially lead to long-term improvements in the stock assessment and subsequent management of these species. It also provides a bottom-up approach to fisheries management, allowing the fishing industry to actively engage in the management of these important commercial species.
What fleet segments will the pilot apply to?
The pilot will be undertaken within the large mesh mixed fishery on the west coast of Scotland in ICES Division VIa. Coverage will be limited to vessels fishing with a codend mesh size of 120mm or greater and all vessels participating in this fishery are invited to participate.
How are catches reported?
Catches are reported via a very simple bespoke smartphone or tablet app or desktop application that will be developed in collaboration with the participants (Figure 1). Each skipper will be provided a unique username and password, which they will enter along with their vessel identification a single time when they begin participating in the program. The following information will be recorded and submitted shortly after each haul:
· Haul number; Date; Time shot; Time hauled; Total cod/whiting catch (kg).
What data is stored?
Data collected and stored will include vessel id, haul date, shooting and hauling times and total cod/whiting catch. Additional data will be collected from a positional unit (similar to the current VMS) fitted to each vessel. Position data pings will be sent at frequent intervals to improve spatial resolution of tow tracks.
Where is the data stored?
The reporting component will transmit data to a database server hosted in Amazon’s elastic compute cloud. This database server will store all catch reports as well as vessel position reports. Both components of the system will use industry standards for encryption of catch and position data at rest and during transmission. All traffic to and from the server will be encrypted using SSL.
How is an alert generated?
When a recorded catch is above an agreed threshold, an automatic report will be generated and sent via email or other electronic means (to be determined with participants during the development phase) to all vessels participating in the program. The alert will contain details of where the catch was located, the date and time, and the total catch of cod/whiting. Heat maps showing concentrations of cod may also be shared (see Figure 2 for an example). Vessel details and information on other species in the catch will not be shared.
What is the purpose of the high abundance alerts?
One of the key aims of the RTR system is to allow fishermen to fish ‘smart’, making informed decisions about where to fish. System outputs will not be used to close fishing grounds. High abundance alerts will be used to notify other vessels of high concentrations of cod/whiting. Vessels will then make an informed decision on whether to avoid a specific area.
Who has access to the data?
The fishing vessels participating in the program will ultimately own the data which will be stored on an online server as described above. Access to data gathered through the catch application and position recoding unit will be limited to individual vessels, their respective POs and the third-party contractor.
What happens next?
SFO, University of Aberdeen and Chordata LLC have submitted a joint funding application to Fisheries Innovation Scotland (FIS). It is anticipated that the application will be considered during the first week of April and, if successful, the pilot will begin shortly afterwards.