Fisheries management based on the best available scientific advice requires harmonised, reliable and accurate data sets. To deliver this, Ireland's current programme collects data on fleets and their fishing activities, in particular biological data on catches, including discards and survey information on fish stocks, and on the potential environmental impact of fishing activities on the marine ecosystem.
Since fish do not recognise national boundaries, scientists from the North Atlantic coordinate their work under the umbrella of the International Council of the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). ICES acts as a meeting point for a community of more than 4,000 marine scientists from 20 countries.
Ireland manages and makes the collected data available to end-users and to other interested parties, through a series of EU and ICES data calls throughout the year. This information then feeds into the decision making process, which ultimately decides on how much fish the fishing industry can take out of the sea. The final decision by managers is based on fisheries science, economic, social and political considerations. In European waters, the scientific and management process is guided by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)
How is the data and advice used?
The following diagram describes, in a very general way, how sampling data collected by the Marine Institute fits into the decision making process that leads to the formulation of annual Total Allowable Catches (TAC’s) and other management measures such as effort control and closed areas.
Data collected by fisheries scientists are assessed each year using special computer packages (models). These produce estimates of stock size (biomass in tonnes). If we know the biomass and biology of the fish stock, we can estimate on how many fish can be safely removed from the stock in order to ensure a sustainable resource.
A key output of data analysis and advice is the annual Stock Book and the annual Shellfisheries Stock Book. These provide the latest assessment and scientific advice for the resources exploited by Irish vessels and is a key reference for DAFM, Industry and NGO's. The Stock Book is also used for the Governments sustainability assessment presented annually to the Oireachtas. The latest Stock Books can be downloaded here.