Examination of Witness

Part of Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 6th December 2018.

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Dr Carl O'Brien:

Before the common fisheries policy was agreed, most fisheries management went through the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. The data that was used by the NEAFC and that is used by the Commission comes from ICES. At the moment, ICES is made up of 19 member countries that are not just from Europe; it also includes Iceland, the Faroes, Greenland, Norway, America and Canada.

Each country records landings data, which is done for us through the Marine Management Organisation. It records effort data, which is the so-called fishery-dependent data. We also have fishery-independent data: in our case, we have the research vessel Endeavour, which goes to sea and surveys around our waters for distributions of individual species. We record the type of species and their size. We take the little earstones, otoliths, out of their ears and age them in a way that is similar to ageing trees—if you slice through the otoliths, you can count growth rings.

We have length measurements of fish, we have age readings, we have species composition, and we have species distribution. All that information is given to ICES. In the case of the UK, because we have devolved Administrations, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England—England does some of the sampling for Wales—combine their data together and it goes in as the UK data. Countries within Europe, such as Germany and France, do something very similar.

The landings data and the biological data are all put together and we carry out formal assessment models. These can be data-intensive and very complicated mathematical models, or they can be more simplistic models, using life history characteristics—things based on growth rates and size of individuals.

Essentially, the assessments are international. It is not the UK assessing our fish stocks in our waters; it is done internationally, there is international agreement and it is not just within the EU but outside the EU, as well.