Technology and Partnership

15th January 2013 in Industry Science Partnerships

The recent workshop held in York, organised by the NFFO and Cefas, on different ways of delivering fully documented fisheries will result, in due course, in a report that will be of interest to a whole range of policy makers and industry sectors at a crucial juncture.

What will have struck many of the workshop participants is the incredible rate of change in the remote sensing and information technologies available, or about to become available, to automatically record various aspects of fishing activities.

The advantages of applying these technologies to different stages of the process of catching, landing and selling fish, lie in:

  • Strengthened fisheries science
  • Reduced bureaucracy
  • More cost effective enforcement
  • Better fisheries management
  • Greater confidence in the supply chain
  • Increased revenues for fishing vessels.

Some of the pitfalls to avoid are:

  • A Big brother approach to enforcement
  • Disproportionate installation and running costs
  • Inappropriate use of the data collected.

There were, however, two overriding themes to emerge from the various presentations and discussions over the two days of the workshop.

The first was that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. To be useful and effective the new technologies must be applied intelligently, and be customised to meet the contours of each individual fishery. What works, to pick two examples at random, in the North Sea demersal fishery won't necessarily work in the South West ultra-mixed fishery. Systems that work well on large vessels won’t necessarily be appropriate for smaller vessels.

The second striking conclusion was that to work at all, the new technologies must be embedded within a set of arrangements that make sense at vessel level, including both the practical and the commercial realities of operating a fishing boat.

How to ensure that remote-sensing is considered by all the parties involved as desirable, useful and valuable - an attribute rather than an intrusion-that is the major challenge for those involved in designing and applying a useful system of remote catch recording.

The workshop pointed to partnership approaches of various kinds, in which all parties gain from the new arrangements, are the key to the successful use of the new technologies. If all parties involved benefit, all parties have an interest in overcoming obstacles and ensuring the ready flow of data and information, whether that is catch details or sea temperatures within the water column. If a partnership approach is absent there is every chance that the new technologies will not deliver their full benefits.

The workshop participants acknowledged that meeting the top-down obligations to emerge from the CFP's discard policy is likely to involve a range of modern technologies that will pose a number of challenges in terms of practicalities, data ownership and security. But equally, as in every other sphere of the economy, modern information technology can also bring huge advantages, if used correctly.

The workshop, which is part of a Defra-funded Fisheries Science Partnership, was successful in bringing together fishermen, scientists, technology experts, retailers and policy-makers in a mature, considered and thoughtful exchange about the future of catch recording.

All have a deep interest in finding new ways of ensuring full confidence in the whole system of catch recording. It is clear that modern technologies will play a central role in this, that there are opportunities for all involved and that cooperative, collaborative arrangement provide the best way of ensuring that pitfalls are avoided.