What role can the marine industry play in delivering scientific information relevant to ICES advice and marine research? This article in the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea newsletter, published on 18 July 2019, reports on an ICES workshop on the issue, which was chaired by Dr Steven Mackinson of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association
ICES Workshop on science with industry initiatives (WKSCINDI), chaired by Steven Mackinson, Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association, and Jon Elson, Cefas, invited representatives of the fishing industry, scientists, and fishery managers to discuss possible future collaborations.
Industry initiatives for data collection and provision create opportunities for ICES in its work to provide a solid evidence base for advice on fish stocks, and also to provide new sources of information on the marine environment that would not otherwise be possible. For example, high volumes of finely resolved spatial data covering the entire year.
This can help ensure that ICES makes the best use of available scientific information. It also allows other marine users to engage with ICES in ways that facilitate understanding of, and confidence in, ICES advice.
Fishers also welcome the opportunity to take on new responsibilities and provide scientific data, viewing this as a direct contribution to the continuous improvement of stock assessments and the quality of the scientific advice that managers use when making decisions about the quotas upon which fishing business depend. For many years, the fishing industry have been willing and able contributors and could have the capacity to do more if the pathways to allow it are made clear.
Current industry-science initiatives
Direct engagement of the fishing industry in the provision of scientific information for research and management is becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide. In the ICES region, recent years have seen examples of scientific professionalization of the industry, which has implications for ICES interactions. The implications of these and ways to address were topics of discussion at the workshop.
During WKSCINDI, participants shared many recent examples of data collection initiatives with and by industry. These include industry-led self-sampling programmes for pelagic fish that will provide high resolution biological and fishery data relevant to assessment; industry providing data on data-limited stocks where no information was previously available, co-designed experiments to reduce discards; using industry data to inform scientific survey design, assessing the sustainability of scallop fisheries; and reconstructing the Northwest Atlantic mackerel stock assessment. These initiatives also show how industry are providing platforms to develop and test the latest remote technologies, demonstrating how vertical integration of sampling can provide timely business intelligence data while at the same time delivering quality scientific data.
While industry initiatives for data collection and provision creates opportunities for ICES science, it raises important questions about standards for scientific information, an issue discussed at length during the workshop. ICES Working Group on Commercial Catches(WGCATCH), Planning Group on Data Needs for Assessment and Advice (PGDATA), and other projects working on best practice guidelines for industry data collection have already carried out important work. However, Mackinson highlighted that: “There is valuable work still to be done to bring this to the fore and make it accessible across ICES community". This has implications for survey planning groups, stock assessment groups, the development of the RDBES, and Regional Coordination Groups.
It was clear from those participating in WKSCINDI, that industry is willing and capable of collecting and providing scientific data, and that this is motivated by different reasons, including the provision of information for fisheries management, use as business intelligence data, and to demonstrate to markets industry's responsibility and sustainability credentials.
According to Elson, what became apparent over the course of the two days was that the road to inclusion and application of scientific data from industry in ICES work looks more like a network of interconnecting roads. “We need to map out what the scientific community, industry, and policy makers think is needed, how the science should be conducted, and how to ensure its credibility."
Looking forward, the group point to a need for future workshops that will establish guidelines for industry data collection initiatives, the quality assurance process, and the pathway to making the data useful for ICES. The utility and added-value of industry self-sampling data should be evaluated by comparison with traditional catch sampling data. And, finally to reconvene a wider group in 2–3 years to review the progress in this rapidly evolving discipline which is, to some degree, unfamiliar waters to many in ICES community. Participants were encouraged with the high level support for this initiative from ICES Advisory Committee Chair and Secretariat.
Mark Dickey-Collas, ICES Advisory Committee Chair was pleased to see the variety and number of participants. “I had originally approached the chairs to set up the workshop because ICES needs to make demonstrable progress towards the incorporation of industry-derived data and knowledge into our evidence base. ICES is committed to the use of best available information in its advice for management, and this must include information from all credible sources".
WKSCINDI contributes to ICES science priorities:
Observation and exploration – WKSCINDI is an example of ICES developing and coordinating integrated, quality assured, and cost-effective monitoring programmes.
Seafood production - WKSCINDI is working towards improving methods of single-species and multi-species stock assessment, including data-limited methods while also improving the transparency, robustness, efficiency, and repeatability of stock assessment.