Scottish fishermen have been offered the chance to supplement their income by participating in scientific research.
Skippers from across Scotland attended a two-day training event at the University of Aberdeen to learn how to sample and measure catches of fish. After completing the course the fishermen will have the opportunity to participate in paid work with Marine Scotland Science.
The training was led by fisheries biologists from the university who gave talks, practical demonstrations and lead team-work exercises. The aim was to provide participants with a good understanding of sampling, accurate measuring and recording and be shown how this information is used to provide fish stock estimates.
Opportunities to improve fish identification skills and training were also given in the collection of ‘earbones’ which help scientists calculate the age of fish.
Dr Paul Fernandes, Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) Reader in Fisheries Science said: "We are delighted to host this training event which will prepare Scottish fishermen to take a more proactive role in gathering the scientific evidence needed to underpin fisheries management.
“The European Common Fisheries Policy is being reformed to include a more regional approach to management involving the key stakeholders. Providing input to the evidence base is important not only as a contribution to regional management, but it is also important for stakeholders to start taking greater responsibility for the wider stewardship of the resource they depend on.
“Evidence gathered in this way will have greater credibility in the eyes of the industry, but to be acceptable to the international scientific community and ultimately the managers, it must be on a sound scientific footing. The University of Aberdeen certainly hopes to play its part in that aspect and we hope the fishermen’s experience in learning here is as good as those of our many students."
The Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead visited the University to see the training, which was paid for by the Scottish Government, and meet with the skippers.
Mr Lochhead said: “In a time of limited resources and increasing calls for more science, greater involvement of industry is a natural development.
"I’m pleased that we are able to offer Scottish skippers the opportunity to undertake paid science and research work. This will have the double benefit of making up potential income lost by vessels not actually fishing commercially while also giving us a better understanding of the fish stocks and their distribution off the West Coast, allowing us to better manage a sustainable fishery for the future.”
Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation said: "The SFF enthusiastically supports this initiative as a willing partner. Every fishing boat Skipper is aware of his environment and of changes to it, so the training of fishermen to make scientific observations and record and report them in a way that will contribute to stock assessment is the first step of potentially huge advance."
Nick Bailey, Programme Manager Sustainable Fisheries, Marine Scotland Science said: “I have been looking forward, for some time, to this opportunity to work with fishermen to further enhance the information available to science and ultimately to the fisheries management process which affects a wide variety of stakeholders. Fishing vessels and fishermen provide a potentially large resource for additional sampling and their involvement helps to build their trust in the scientific process and confidence in the information being used.
“In order for information provided by them to be used and trusted in international science forums such as ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), it is important that a scientific approach is followed which this training course provides. Fairly soon after the training, we will have an opportunity to put things into practise when a series of collaborative industry/science surveys begins on the West Coast of Scotland and fishermen will be actively involved in the fish sampling process”