By-Catch a hot issue at IIFET Industry & Policy Day

8 12, 2016

Addressing the complex issues around managing by-catch, and advances in electronic monitoring and recording, were two key issues to emerge from last month’s International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade (IIFET) conference in Aberdeen, Scotland.

IIFET is a global organisation consisting of over 700 member organisations from over 65 countries. FINNZ General Manager Mark Jones presented at the annual event, attended by a mix of fisheries representatives from academia, government, NGOs and industry.

A broad range of topics were covered during the event, including presentations and discussions on aquaculture economics; the economics of commercial and recreational fisheries; seafood markets, trade and consumption; seafood processing and logistics; and managing marine ecosystems and competing uses.

An issue which attracted considerable debate and interest during the industry and policy day at the conference was the growing focus on managing by-catch.  Government and industry across jurisdictions are grappling with the policy and implementation challenges of managing the reality of bycatch.

Discussion focused on the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy and the landing obligation regime. The landing obligation reduces fish discarded at sea, but introduces difficulties for the fishing fleet when quotas for bycatch species are set too low. These ‘choke’ species can inhibit the fleet from fishing available quota for target species.

This issue creates challenges for industry, fisheries regulators, and administrators – each have a role in addressing the issue. Industry can work on gear selectivity to reduce the incidence of bycatch. Similarly, fisheries regulators and administrators need to develop workable changes to govern the issue - this might be through quota adjustments (sustainability of the stocks permitting) or the application of a deemed value type regime as is seen in New Zealand.

Better fisheries data, and better ways of managing that information play a crucial part in empowering regulators and administers to tackle challenges like managing bycatch.

The whole question of gathering and processing information was a hot topic in itself at the IIFET event. Advances in electronic reporting and monitoring were discussed in a number of sessions, with the same ultimate aspiration from attendees of all types – that better and more timely information can help transform the way we manage fisheries.

With digital video recording and processing technology becoming more sophisticated and more affordable; and the ‘internet of things’ where on-board sensors, software and other devices can be integrated to gather and process richer information more efficiently (e.g. putting electronic tags on crab pots and vessels to track location and movement); the opportunities for richer and more current data in the future are significant.

What remains of course is being able to apply these technologies effectively in a policy and administrative sense. For example, collecting huge amounts of on-vessel footage is becoming easier thanks to technology advances, but how can that be efficiently processed and used to improve fisheries administration?

Working through the processes and policies around managing fisheries data is as important as implementing the latest technology tools to gather and process it.

Contact FINNZ if you would like to discuss your challenges in managing fisheries information.

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