Fisheries data from electronic monitoring and traceability systems in the context of the EU landing obligation

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

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Accounting for the interactions and effects of fisheries targeting multiple species is a longstanding issue in management systems using single species quota allocations as output control of fish stocks, such as in the European Union (EU). An unfortuante sideeffect of such management is discarding, which is the act of returning catches to the sea for one or several reasons, including insufficient quota. To minimize discarding, the EU has gradually implemented a regulation making it mandatory for fishers to take (most) catches to port. This landing obligation aim at ending discards for most fisheries and fish stocks and at incentivising fishers to increase their selectivity. For mixed fisheries, the landing obligation has thus increased the importance of catch composition (the mix of species caught together), because the regulation takes away the mechanism by which fishers previously dealt with mismatches between quota allocations and actual catches in mixed fisheries; discarding. How to adapt the fisheries and fisheries control to the landing obligation is a question of practical options at-sea but also what expectations key stakeholders have to the landing obligation and how much they are ready to comply with it. In line with the intention of the landing obligation, improved selectivity is the main option for fishers to adapt to the landing obligation. Together with increased gear selectivity, increased spatial selectivity by identifying the spatial and temporal occurrences of unwanted catches are options for optimising the fishing effort to best target wanted catches and thereby increase selectivity. However, the current fisheries management and data collection systems in Europe do not include full coverage of at-sea fishing operations. New technologies like electronic monitoring with video (EM) and opportunistic data collected at-sea may provide the additional information necessary to address the fine-scale adaptations required to improve spatial selectivity. At the same time, these new technologies may well provide a better data basis to provide the scientific advice for the management of the European fisheries.
This PhD investigated the expectations of Danish fishers and fishery inspectors towards the landing obligation, as well their opinions on EM as a compliance tool in the fisheries (Paper I). We found that the landing obligation is perceived as difficult to enforce by fishery inspectors and that the majority of fishers are negative or indifferent towards the landing obligation. We found that fishery inspectors favour at-sea monitoring and observers over EM but that EM in general is seen as an option among fishery inspectors to ensure compliance with the landing obligation. Fishers have a more negative opinion towards EM, although this is mainly the case for fishers with no experience of having EM on-board, whereas the majority of fishers with experience with EM are positive towards EM.
As mentioned above, improved spatial selectivity is one of the main options for adapting to the landing obligation. Adding new data to the existing sources of fisheries dependent data, like onboard observers, logbooks and vessel monitoring systems, could potentially provide new opportunities for improving the daily fishery tactics of where and when to fish. During this PhD, a new source of fisheries dependent data already existing in the Danish fisheries came to our attention. This data source, called SIF, “Sporbarhed I Fiskerisektoren” [traceability in the fisheries sector] collects information on retained catches packed at-sea from on-board grading machines. The system is used for traceability requirements, where fishers pack and label their fish at-sea (sea-packing) which ensures buyers of the fish that the crates holding the fish are labelled correctly. In terms of information level, this voluntary system resembles what is already required in the electronic logbooks (which are mandatory for vessels above 12 meters in length). However, where logbooks for catch information record only the species and volume landed, SIF also records the size (commercial size categories) of the landed fish. As such, the spatial distribution of fish sizes can be extracted. Fish size is an important driver in fishing tactics because minimum sizes determine whether fish can be sold for human consumption and because for most species, the prices per kg are higher for fish with a larger body size. This sea-packing data has to our knowledge never been used for scientific purposes. Therefore, this PhD investigated the coverage and reliability of data from the vessels which sea-pack and use the SIF system (Paper II). It was found that the validity of sea-packing data in the SIF system is not only vessel specific; it can also vary depending on the species. No clear factors were found that could explain these variations. If using SIF as scientific data input, one has to validate the quality of the data for each vessel and species for which the analysis is to be run.
Unlike the SIF system, EM is established as a control tool in the United States and Canada and European trials have used EM for several management purposes. Based on data from the largest and longest running Danish EM trial, the reliability and cost of EM was investigated (Paper III). It was found that the reliability of EM in the Danish trial has been increased by technical developments and simple practical fixes. This underpin EM as a feasible Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) tool. While automated image analysis is currently the main development, which can lower EM costs, it was found that video audit times and the corresponding running costs of EM have already decreased by optimising video audit routines. EM is not a silver bullet that by default is the optimal solution for compliance or data collection, but it is a cost-effective measure compared to the current alternatives like on-board observers or at-sea control. Finally, the analysed sea-packing and EM data was used as case study input to a book chapter as part of the Horizon 2020 project “DiscardLess” (Book chapter I). The aim of these case studies was to present support tools to fishers, which may assist them in optimising their spatial selectivity.
In conclusion, EM and traceability systems like SIF do provide opportunities for improved data in fisheries management and fisheries science. Within the context of the landing obligation, EM and traceability systems has a dual applicability. On one hand, these systems can assists fishers with additional information to adjust their fishery and increase selectivity. On the other hand, these systems can be used as a control tool. The acceptance of such systems rely much on how they are used. While this is a policy decision, science plays an important role in advising decision makers and stakeholders. Bringing the work of this PhD into the advisory sphere and future publications is the next stage for my work on SIF and EM.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherTechnical University of Denmark
Number of pages134
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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