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:

The easiest answer to that is that, in 2003, MAFF created the fisheries science partnership, which is still funded by DEFRA. We asked fishermen for their ideas on specific projects. A lot of the ideas are selectivity measures, but we had a project a few years ago where there was an emerging cuttlefish fishery down in the south-west. The fisheries science partnership was used as a way for the fisherman to work with scientists to see the viability of a cuttlefish industry down there. The problem with cuttlefish is that they come and go. They had a couple of years of quite high catches, but then basically they died away.

There is a strong role for science and industry to work together, because you would not want the industry to gear up for a cuttlefish fishery that will last for only two years. The way we have worked in the past is the way I hope we would work in future. But you are right—if there are emerging new species, there should be a dialogue between the industry and scientists and also Government to see whether you should develop fisheries. In some cases, these will be species that we may not know very much about, a bit like the jellyfish. You would not want to gear up for a high extraction rate of jellyfish without understanding the implications for the ecosystem. There will be other species that feed off jellyfish. If we as humans are removing them from the system, those species will not have access to a food source.