More than half of the main species landed by Scottish whitefish vessels come from stocks that are ‘data deficient’, according to a review carried out by the North Atlantic Fisheries College (NAFC) Marine Centre. Data-deficient fish stocks are those for which the data needed to carry out a scientific assessment are not available.


The review found that of the 20 principal species landed by Scottish whitefish vessels, 12 were classed as ‘data-deficient’, 14 had no scientific assessment, and 16 had no defined reference points (used to help judge the state of the stock). The Scottish fleet landed some GBP 40 million (EUR 47.96 million) worth of fish from ‘data-deficient’ stocks in 2010, one-third of the value of all their landings, reports FIS.COM.


NAFC Senior Marine Policy Advisor Dr Ian Napier, who carried out the review, which is available on the NAFC Marine Centre website, commented: “The review has revealed the magnitude of the problem of ‘data-deficient’ stocks. While everybody accepts that fisheries management should be based on sound science, the fact is that the necessary information is not available for many of the most important species caught be Scottish fishing vessels.”


Species which are classed as ‘data-deficient’ include: monks, megrim, ling and lemon sole, while whiting and hake lack reference points. Landings of monkfish alone by the Scottish fleet were worth some GBP 25 million (EUR 29.98 million) in 2010.


The issue of ‘data-deficient’ stocks has gained prominence recently because the European Commission (EC) has attempted to implement a policy that would see quotas for stocks that lack scientific advice cut by at least 25 per cent.


Head of Marine Science and Technology at the NAFC Marine Centre Dr Martin Robinson added: “Ian’s production of this report is timely, coming when we have just appointed a full-time observer to collect data for species important to the Shetland fleet where gaps in knowledge exist.  The department here is committed to supporting the development of regionalized management systems that incorporate fishermen’s data into assessments where knowledge gaps are increasingly a thing of the past.  There is a lot of progress and work required to achieve this, but for areas such as Shetland where fishing is so vital to the community, it is something that carries a great importance.”