5 Science and Data |
70. Both the current and proposed Basic Regulations
enshrine a requirement to base decisions on sound scientific advice.
Defra also aims to base its decisions on sound science and evidence.
It is therefore highly concerning that this advice is not available
for a substantial number of the EU's stocksaccording to
Reliable scientific advice exists for around 30%
of all EU stocks, most of them in the Atlantic Ocean, and the
North and Baltic Seas. Out of 102 stocks in the Atlantic, there
is no assessment for 42 stocks and incomplete information exists
for a further 21. In the Mediterranean, there is advice for just
21 out of 60 stocks.
Moreover the proportion of stocks for which no scientific
advice is available is actually increasing over time, not decreasing,
despite the EU's investment in data collection.
The draft CFP regulation introduces a new requirement that the
EU shall implement an ecosystem-based management approach.
This is a laudable aim but requires substantial data on non-commercial
species, which are generally not available.
71. The absence of scientific advice or data
for so many stocks renders it impossible to prove whether Commission's
objective to exploit stocks at MSY levels has been met. It is
difficult even to evaluate the trajectory of European fish stocks
and so decide if current conservation measures are working or
if more stringent measures are needed. Lack of recent and locally-specific
data on fish stock abundance is also a cause of antagonism between
fisheries managers, fishers and scientists.
David Scott, an experienced fisherman and former chair of the
NFFO, felt that "it is ridiculous to have a situation where
we are virtually knee deep in cod but fishermen cannot catch them.
It is all because of guesswork on the part of the scientists,
because they have not been able to put in the time to assess the
This antagonism could hinder effective co-management going forward.
72. Both the fishing industry and fisheries scientists
felt a new way of working was needed to allow evidence-based management
to take place cost-effectively. Professor Frid, Chair of Marine
Biology at the University of Liverpool, argued that "to strive
for 'adequate data on everything' is unrealistic and unnecessary".
Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen's
Federation, noted that it was not the case that there was "a
complete dearth of information" for the unassessed stocks.
Instead there was a view that the International Council for the
Exploration of the Sea (ICES),and other sources of scientific
advice to the EU, are being too prescriptive in their definition
of acceptable data and could make greater use of available sources
73. The financial envelope for scientific knowledge
and data collection will increase from 46.6m currently to
over 50m annually under the future EMFF.
However, the Commission's Impact Assessment concluded that an
extra 20m would be needed to just to fill the scientific
gaps for the 136 stocks that were modelled (the EU manages over
200 stocks in total).
The Commission also proposes to improve the collection of fisheries-related
data by Member States through a new provision in the future EMFF
regulation to make receipt of funding conditional on compliance
with data collection obligations.
74. It is essential that the future CFP is placed
on a sounder scientific footing. The fact that the proportion
of stocks for which scientific advice is not available is actually
increasing over time, not decreasing, strongly indicates that
the current approach is failing. The current economic circumstances
also constrain our ability to spend more on scientific advice
and data collection. In this light, we think it is time to move
away from the traditional, data-hungry, single stock models and
consider a new approach that makes better use of real time data
from fishing vessels and uses data on other aspects of ecosystem
health as indicators. Defra
should support the Commission's proposals to increase funding
for scientific advice and data collection and withdraw funding
from Member States that fail to comply with data collection obligations.
We also recommend that Defra, with the industry and fisheries
scientists, investigate the options for a more cost-effective
approach to science-based fisheries management through making
more imaginative use of the available data sets.
75. Improving the availability of scientific
advice also benefits the fishing industry through increasing quotas.
Professor Rogers pointed out that:
Often something missed by people is that,
the more you know about the state of a fish stock, its biomass
and the level of fishing mortality being exerted on it, the more
precise you can be about what a sensible offtake from that fishery
For example, the Commission's application of the
precautionary principle might mean that catch limits for data-poor
stocks are overly conservativeduring the 2012 TAC negotiations
the Commission proposed an automatic 25% cut for data-poor stocks.
76. Our witnesses were united in their support
of Fisheries Science Partnerships (FSPs). FSPs are a Defra-funded
programme of collaborative research projects using commercial
fishing vessels and CEFAS scientists.
We heard that FSPs had improved data availability and strengthened
relationships between fishers and scientists.
Defra allocated £1m per year to FSPs between 2003 and 2011,
most of which is paid out to the fishing industry for vessel hire.
By 2013 the budget for FSPs is set to fall by 10%, to under £900,000
per year. The
fishing industry does not currently contribute financially to
FSPs. Seafish argued that it would be necessary to "harness
the resources and skills of the fishing industry as a sampling
platform" in order to deliver the sort of data needed for
ecosystem based management.
77. Fisheries Science Partnerships benefit both
the fishing industry and Defra through enabling more effective,
evidence-based management, as well as building relationships.
The industry currently benefits directly from FSPs through payments
for vessel hire. We think it would be appropriate for the industry
to contribute towards the costs of data collection to help keep
Fisheries Science Partnership projects running. We
encourage Defra to continue funding Fisheries Science Partnerships
(FSPs) and to also work with the industry to consider how a cost-sharing
approach to FSPs could be taken forward.
78. Models for predicting the impact of different
catch levels in mixed fisheries are still under development.
The Scottish Fishermen's Federation pointed out that the
absence of scientific models for mixed fisheries alone may make
it impossible to attain the target of MSY by 2015 for these fisheries.
are concerned by the absence of scientific models on which to
base multi-species fisheries management. Defra should set out
the current availability of these models for UK fisheries and
the resources and time required to fill any gaps.
150 COM(2011) 425, Article 4; (EC) No 2371/2002, Recital
Defra Business Plan 2011-2015, May 2011, p 2 Back
SEC(2011) 891, p 13 Back
European Commission, Consultation on Fishing Opportunities
for 2011, COM(2010)241 final, May 2010, Annex IA. In 2003,
the proportion of stocks were no scientific advice was available
was 24%. By 2010, this had risen to 30% Back
COM(2011) 425, Article 2 Back
Seafish (Ev 135, Q 430) Back
NUTFA (Q 100), NFFO (Ev 107), Bill Brock and David Scott (Q 418)
Q 418 Back
Ev w19 Back
Q 95 Back
NFFO (Ev 109), WWF (Q 307); Professor Frid (Ev w 19) Back
Ev 118 Back
SEC(2011) 891, p 57 Back
COM(2011) 804 final, p 9 Back
Q 8 Back
HC Deb, 7 November 2011, c3WS; Q 362 Back
Ev 107-109 Back
Information provided by CEFAS Back
Ev 135 Back
ICES, ICES Advice 2011 Book 1, p 9 Back
Ev 112 Back