The road to incorporating Scottish pelagic industry data in science for stock assessments

The road to incorporating Scottish pelagic industry data in science for stock assessments

Fisheries data collection through industry-science partnerships have significant potential to support stock assessments and sustainable management, but few studies have described the steps to ensure a successful partnership.

A new paper – The road to incorporating Scottish pelagic industry data in science for stock assessments – published in the respected marine science journal ‘Frontiers’ describes the development of the Scottish Pelagic Industry-Science Data Collection Programme; why and how it started, and what it has taken to develop a routine and consistent voluntary sampling regime of sufficient quality to become the main source of biological data on pelagic fish catches in Scotland.

Drawing upon this experience, paper authors Steven Mackinson of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, Chevonne Angus and Katie Brigden of Shetland UHI, and Jessica Craig, Elizabeth Clarke and Campbell Pert of Marine Directorate of the Scottish Government, emphasise the importance of establishing procedures that ensure the quality of methods and results. Equally important is the need to work with institutions responsible for provision of national data, and of actively engaging with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) workshops and working groups on data quality, stock assessment and stakeholder engagement.

The development of the programme has proved a mutual learning process which is reflected by the different institutional perspectives of the participants in the initiative. The experience gained during this work has built knowledge useful for practitioners in other situations. Specifically, the paper has identified five transferable design principles that the authors believe have been essential to the programme’s success so far.

These are:

  1. Identifying where there is both opportunity and utility in information that fulfils a need expressed by industry or science.
  2. Always being open and honest with others and understanding that participation is better when fishers have a sense of ownership. The approach has focussed on engaging fishers on the scientific issues relevant to them, and importantly, encouraging an attitude where fishers want to provide data. Fundamental to this is the need for openness and transparent communications because they help to build trust and productive working relationships, where everyone can gain the confidence they need to do their job well and with pride. In the case of the sampling programme, the authors see the advantages, whereby skippers and samplers can – and do – contact programme scientists directly when they have questions or concerns.

iii. Creation of effective feedback mechanisms between scientists and the skippers and crew involved in sampling. The purpose of these mechanisms is to provide the participants with information from which they can assess whether their efforts are rewarded with something of value to them (i.e. the ‘what’s in it for me?’), as well as to understand each other’s roles and to provide opportunities for scientists to listen to operational needs so that they can adapt processes to be fit-for-purpose.

  1. Establishing transparent quality assurance and quality control processes and documentation that serve to assure data users that they are confident that the information they receive is an accurate representation of the fishery catches.
  2. Constructively engaging, challenging and supporting necessary developments in national and international institutional processes that determine whether data from industry programmes have the chance to be applied in stock assessments.

For those seeking to instigate industry data programmes for other fisheries, the paper identifies key issues that need to be overcome. These include initial perceptions, the quality and continuity of data, as well as reputational concerns. The pace of change may also be an issue, with each partner having different expectations about the speed of implementing new data collection initiatives. It is important to have good communication throughout the process and to establish protocols, especially for meetings.

The authors state: “Our example provides valuable lessons for others in terms of both the practical and social dimensions of collaborative research endeavours. It offers a partial ‘roadmap’ for others considering self- and co-sampling initiatives that are underpinned by a shared objective to continuously improve the science that supports long-term sustainability of fisheries.”

The full paper, can be viewed at:  Frontiers | The road to incorporating Scottish pelagic industry data in science for stock assessments (