In 2013 FMAC (Fisheries Management and Conservation Group) agreed to develop and operate a combined Marine Scotland Science and Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Observer Sampling Scheme to make better use of total observer resource. The joint scheme was intended to provide:
- A single, definitive source of Scottish discard data collected, stored and analysed in a unified way
- Statistically robust estimates of catch and discards for all required purposes (ICES and reporting to Commission)
- A reduction in some of the variance associated with discard estimation
- A larger pool of vessels sampled each year providing greater coverage
- More efficient utilisation of the resource and greater acceptance by all stakeholders that ‘best possible’ use is being made of available data
The scheme became fully operational in 2015. Data from the combined SFF / Marine Scotland Observer Sampling Scheme are now utilised in stock assessment. The contribution of the SFF Observer Scheme is acknowledged in ICES advice on fishing opportunities catch and effort (2017) and the revised National Program for the Data Collection Framework includes reference to data collected under the joint SFF / MSS Observer Sampling Scheme.
An additional valuable input is the provision of information on data-deficient stocks to avoid the automatic reductions in TAC for data deficient stocks. Extended coverage from SFF contributes to a more robust dataset which can be used in several ways within the evolving ICES framework for assessing data deficient stocks. SFF observers also participate in the industry/science anglerfish survey which underpins the science advice on fishing opportunities.