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Danish Database Keeps Track of European Fish Stocks

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DENMARK - It is never easy to have to count all the fish in the sea. However, biologists and administrators all over Europe will soon receive a helping hand from a new shared database developed by DTU Aqua National Institute of Aquatic Resources

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Are there more cod to be found in the eastern Baltic Sea? And where are all the herring? European fishery biologists will soon find it easier to answer these questions and others because the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has chosen to use the FishFrame database developed by DTU Aqua National Institute of Aquatic Resources in Denmark. The database is to be the shared tool used by ICES to process data from the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the North Atlantic. It will thus contain the huge volumes of data about fishery and the status of fish stocks that are collected every year by the European fishery research institutions.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) is the scientific organisation that plans and co-ordinates monitoring of European fish stocks so as to be able, for example, to advise EU politicians about future fishery.

The council provides its advice on the basis of the data collected every year using sea exploration vessels such as the Danish ship Dana, through examination of landing statistics and fishing vessels' log books, and from measuring fish in catches landed on commercial vessels and in fishing harbours.

The system involving an inter-regional database has been in use in the international administration of the Baltic Sea since the mid-1990s. It was at that time that Henrik Degel, a biologist at DTU Aqua, and his colleague Teunis Jansen developed the first generation of the FishFrame database, which they have since expanded in collaboration with a team of programmers. In 2005, the database was extended to include data from the North Sea as well.

"When data are stored jointly, it is simple to collate information collected by different countries, make comparisons between locations and use one another's data to test hypotheses. In addition, if you have gaps in a specific time series, you can use data from other sources to plug it," explains Henrik Degel, Special Consultant at DTU Aqua.

Users can access FishFrame using a login from any browser, and accessing the database does not require any expensive, complex software. This means that the database is readily accessible, regardless of whether the user is sitting in an office, en route to a meeting anywhere in the world, or comes up with an idea that needs testing right away.

The shared ICES database is to be named "RDB-FishFrame". The ICES platform is financed by the European Commission and run by a steering group of fishery biologists and representatives from ICES.

"Setting up the RDB-FishFrame database at ICES, where all data are available across national and regional borders, is crucial in assuring transparency in data collection and processing. It also ensures higher data quality and, in the long term, more economical data collection," explains Katja Ringdahl, president of the steering group for the coming RDB-FishFrame under the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.