The NAFC Marine Centre has secured over £170,000 of funding from the Scottish government to carry out studies on whiting and ling (olick) stocks.
Scientists at the centre worked closely with the fishing industry to develop the projects, including representatives of Shetland Fishermen’s Association, Orkney Fisheries Association and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.
The two studies were proposed to the Scottish Industry Science Partnership, which has funded five projects during the current financial year, and they aim to bring together industry operators to address common issues. The studies will actively involve commercial fishing vessels and seek to highlight fishermen’s knowledge in relation to the key stocks.
The whiting project will conduct a comparison of industry and scientific perceptions relating to the status of the North Sea stock, as in recent times there has been a significant discrepancy between the two. The NAFC will examine fishing data from commercial vessels and compare it to the results of seasonal surveys conducted by Marine Scotland Science to determine stock abundance.
Part of the work is intended to explain how much of the discrepancy between the views of government scientists and industry is due to the timing, location and sampling methods used.
The information gathered will be passed to the government and the European panel that recommends the annual quota for this important species on which many Shetland, Orkney and wider Scottish vessels depend.
The study on the biology of ling reflects both the importance of this species in terms of income for Scottish vessels but also that, until now, there has been no routine sampling or survey in place for the species and very limited knowledge on which to base management advice.
Scientists from the NAFC will collate the limited existing knowledge of the species and its fishery within Shetland, Orkney and wider Scotland, and begin to develop a baseline of information relating to stock age structure and reproduction.
NAFC head of marine science and technology Martin Robinson said: “I am delighted and proud that the hard work of staff within the department has led to the funding of these projects, both because of their significance to industry but also because they were developed through direct collaboration with stakeholders.”
Dr Robinson said partnerships of this type always offered the best value for money and impact by using fishermen’s knowledge to define highly applied research that targeted problems faced by real people working within our coastal community.
“These projects really sum up why the centre is here,” he said. “To provide meaningful support to industry that is practical and not purely academic.”
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation president Alan Coghill said it was vital that fishermen engaged with scientists and whiting and ling were two stocks of great importance to Scottish fishermen but particularly those in Orkney and Shetland.
Mr Coghill said: “It is particularly appropriate therefore that this is led by NAFC Marine Centre in liaison with the two islands fisheries groups. There is an urgent need to address the differing perceptions of fishermen and scientists on these stocks in a controlled manner which can be passed to the scientific community with the assurances that the information has been properly monitored.”