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:

I think you would be surprised how much evidence has been gathered for non-quota species. Seafish had a project called Project Inshore, which I think is now in its second phase, looking mainly at shellfish species. Quite a lot of data has been collected from around the ports by Project Inshore, with the support of the fishermen and the IFCAs. There is a lot of information from that project.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is committed to progressing its assessments of species like scallops, whelks and crabs. There is a commitment from the Minister’s Department to actually improve data collection and the assessment of those species. I think things are all going in the right direction. At CEFAS, we started this work back in 2010 with ICES, recognising that not having assessments of non-commercial species or data-limited stocks was a drawback to fisheries management.

The Minister answered a Parliamentary question in January, when we came back from December Council, which quoted 31 stocks out of 45 being exploited at MSY. We do not exploit just 45 stocks as a nation—we exploit in excess of 150. A lot of those are data-limited and they may be small tonnages, but they are very important species for local fishermen, certainly down in the south-west. I think we are improving the quality of the data we have available. It is not just for scientists; it is for the fishing industry and for the likes of Seafish.