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Step change in Scottish inshore fisheries management

Tuesday 13 December 2016

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Marine scientists at the University of St Andrews have secured up to £1.73 million of funding from the Scottish Government to develop an integrated system for collecting and analysing data from the Scottish inshore fishing fleet.

The ‘Scottish Inshore Fisheries Integrated Data System’ (SIFIDS) project, conceived and led by members of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) Directorate, is based at the University of St Andrews.

The funding is part of £4m in grants from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing.

As pressures on Scotland’s inshore waters grow, not just from fishing but also demands from the offshore renewables, aquaculture, leisure and tourism sectors, accurate information on these activities is needed by the Scottish Government to inform effective marine planning.

There is a growing need to fill important data gaps as public awareness of the potential effects of fishing and legislative pressure increases. The goal of the SIFIDS project is to develop a process that will use technology and novel processes to involve the industry more directly in data gathering.

The outcome of the project should provide some of the tools needed to make a step change in the way we manage our inshore fisheries – moving from paper forms to the latest technology incorporating automated visual analysis of catch, machine learning and behavioural/predictive computer models capable of informing policy and management decisions.

Dr Mark James, SIFIDS Project Coordinator and MASTS Operations Director, said: “There are more than 1500 inshore fishing vessels operating in Scottish coastal waters. This fishery represents an important part of the rural economy and the cultural fabric of our coastal communities.

“The fact that there are so many small inshore vessels operating around our coast – often in remote areas – means that it has been difficult to gather data that we need to understand how this sector operates in terms of fisheries management, economics and its relationship with other users of our coastal waters.”

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Through the SIFIDS project inshore fishermen will be working alongside scientists and fisheries managers to help design and develop a system that is fit for purpose.

Alastair Philp, skipper of the creeler Nemesis and former Vice-Chair of the North West Inshore Fisheries Group, said he was “delighted to hear about the EMFF funding that has been allocated to research within the inshore fishing sector” stating that there should be “further development of automated data collection systems, which can relieve the burden of paperwork that fishermen are currently required to submit”.

He said he would welcome “any vessel technology that will reduce gear conflict between fishing sectors, and increase stock sustainability”.


Notes to news editors

The 30-month SIFIDS project comprises 12 interdependent ‘work packages’ undertaken by a combination of researchers from the University of St Andrews, the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), the North Atlantic Fisheries College, and Seascope Fisheries Research Ltd.

MASTS brings together the majority of Scotland’s marine science capacity under a single umbrella. Launched in 2009, the Scottish Funding Council together with MASTS member institutions have committed more than £75m over seven years towards forging a consortium of marine science infrastructure and research expertise capable of keeping Scotland at the forefront of international advances in this field. This has been achieved by promoting collaboration, joint working, raising the profile of Scotland’s marine science capabilities, and representing the marine science community both nationally and internationally. MASTS now has 13 member organisations, including all of Scotland’s major Universities, Marine Scotland Science and Scottish Natural Heritage.

The Directorate for MASTS is based at the University of St Andrews in the Scottish Oceans Institute.

A member of the SIFIDS project team is available for interview. Contact Communications Office.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office, contactable on 01334 467310 or proffice@st-andrews.ac.uk.