The SFF’s wholly owned subsidiary, SFF Services, has run the Independent On-board Observer Scheme (IOOS) since 2008. Phase VI of IOOS, commenced on 1 January 2017 and expands and develops the previous phases which were all supported by either the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) or European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and Scottish Government. The work done during the past phases allowed, amongst other things, to gain and maintain fishing opportunities (Scottish Conservation Credit Scheme) and maintain the derogation that allowed the Clyde Nephrops trawl fishery to continue to operate at economically viable levels.

Phase VI is again supported by the European Fisheries and Maritime Fund and the Scottish Government.

Through managed deployment of a pool of six Fisheries Observers, and a Project Co-ordinator/Data Analyst, the project aims to:

  • Provide greatly enhanced data for stock assessment as part of the joint Marine Scotland Science / SFF Observer Scheme as agreed by the Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (FMAC);
  • Support industry led initiatives such as the Gear Innovation and Technology Advisory Group (GITAG) with the aim of testing selective methods of fishing which help address potential problems relating to the Landings Obligation (for whitefish and Nephrops fisheries);
  • Assist Marine Scotland Science in collection of biological data on the industry/science demersal trawling survey of anglerfish (Lophius spp.);
  • Provide practical advice and support for science / industry projects which require direct observations at sea on commercial vessels (e.g. commissioned under Fisheries Innovation Scotland or Fishing Industry Science Alliance);
  • Provide observer coverage and sampling for a scientific monitoring fishery for herring in ICES Division 6a, 7b and 7c as advised by ICES;
  • Support for science / industry Clyde Inshore Demersal Survey; and, in general,
  • Maintain the flexibility to provide support to any industry/ science related project requiring a strong data backup

Our Science Policy Officer, Elena Balestri, manages the scheme, with support from our Project Co-ordinator/Data Analyst, James-Forbes Birnie.

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.