RACs Work to Fill Gaps in the Science

7th March 2012 in Advisory Councils, Fisheries Science

RACs are working with ICES to strengthen fish stock assessments.

The North West Waters RAC has appointed data coordinators for each stock that has been identified as suffering from data deficiencies. Other RACs are taking similar steps. ICES estimates that around 60% of stocks evaluated do not have full analytical assessments.

The task of fishing industry data coordinators is to work with their counterparts within the appropriate ICES assessment group to:

  • Identify specific problems with particular assessments
  • Discuss remedial measures with the ICES scientists
  • Encourage and initiate steps to solve those data problems that the fishing industry can do something about

There is a variety of reasons why ICES may be unable to provide a full analytical assessment with population estimates for a specific stock. These may include:

  • Failure by a member state to fulfil its data provision obligations
  • Scientific modelling issues
  • Weak landings or discards data
  • Absence of historic discard data
  • The cost of collecting the data may be disproportionate to any benefit

Dealing with this complex picture requires dialogue and an approach tailored to the specifics of each stock. A mature dialogue between the RACs and ICES has developed over the last two years and the data coordinators are a concrete expression of the RACs commitment to improve the quality of the science on which important management decisions – including TACs – are made.

At the same time ICES is working on an approach to its advice which would avoid a repetition of last year’s debacle when the Commission’s approach to holes in ICES’ advice was to demand TAC cuts of 25% for any stock without an analytical assessment. Although member states decisively rejected that approach as blunt, disproportionate and downright unfair, efforts are being made within ICES to provide more nuanced and differentiated quantitative advice that could be used to underpin TAC decisions.

The NFFO through its membership of the North Western Waters and North Sea RACs is at the forefront of the engagement between the fishing industry and ICES scientists.