A collaborative project is bringing industry and government together to provide King scallops (Pecten maximus) stock assessments in the English Channel and Celtic Sea to address a current lack of available data.
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The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and the fishing industry are working together to design, test and refine data collection.
Set up in 2016, this year will see the project deliver its first full assessment of stock in the English Channel.
Jim Portus, vice-chair of the project board and chief executive of the South Western Fish Producers Organisation (SWFPO), said: "From a commercial perspective, it is critical to have current and accurate stock information on an on-going basis and I am delighted to be able to be involved in this project as it aims to yield exactly that.
"It is particularly heartening that this is a collaborative project between industry and Cefas.
“There are already demonstrable direct benefits of this project in terms of well-informed engagement, but I also see great benefit in building trust which only bodes well for the future of these important fisheries. The project board are urging all vessels to participate.”
The project will use dredge surveys to provide distribution and abundance estimates in fishable areas and underwater TV to describe abundance in unfishable and unfished areas.
A biological sampling programme will also provide the age composition of scallops caught, and this will be used to estimate mortality rates due to fishing.
The project steering board is being chaired by non-departmental public body Seafish, Cefas, Defra, and the MMO.
It has been funded to date by fishing industry representatives on the steering board, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), Fishing into the Future (via a Seafish grant) and Defra.
Providing funding is available, the scheme will be expanded to include other fisheries in the North Sea and Irish Sea. ■