Aquaculture for all

Evaluating the Distribution, Trends, Value of Inshore, Offshore Fisheries in England

Sustainability Politics

This report collates the currently available evidence on marine fisheries and reviews its completeness and robustness using a gap analysis for future decision making and support development of the Marine Management Organisations fisheries evidence programme.


The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) requires a robust understanding of where, when and how fishing takes place in relation to the distribution of fisheries resources in order to support a number of operational fisheries management functions. At the heart of this is the need to support marine planning; integrating and managing marine fisheries activity alongside other uses of the marine environment to support sustainable development of English waters.

To support this function a key requirement for the MMO is to develop a baseline of evidence on marine fisheries in order to identify and fill evidence gaps to develop evidence to support future decisions. The purpose of this review was to collate the currently available evidence, review its completeness and robustness for future decision making and thereby support development of the MMOs Fisheries evidence programme. A baseline of understanding would provide identification of areas to strengthen, and any new research that needs to be commissioned.

The review draws on the relevant available datasets and evidence reports in order to develop a catalogue of resources which support MMO decision making. It further analyses this evidence for its completeness and robustness through a gap analysis, and synthesises the information to provide details on the distribution and trends in fishing activity and fisheries resources in English waters.

The evidence sources are catalogued according to MEDIN discovery metadata standard to provide a detailed description of the evidence available on marine fisheries. They have been categorised according to several key criteria on relevance, spatial and temporal coverage and according to whether information relates to biological, economic or social evidence in order to enable quick and accurate identification of data and evidence sources which can be used for addressing particular management questions. This information is then used to present a synthesis of evidence on fishing activity and resource distribution in order to guide further detailed research of specific issues, as well as examining some preliminary questions from marine planners.

The information synthesis presented in Sections 6 -12 is disaggregated according to geographical region and fisheries sectors. This provides an overview of the information currently available, and context for any further evidence work required by the MMO.

Evidence on commercial fishing activity is explored with information covering an overview of ecosystem characteristics and status and trends of the most valuable species from each of the four regions. Distribution and trends in international and English fishing effort (hours fishing) are presented for seven gear categories over 2003-2010 (as currently available through the EU databases), with landings by English vessels evaluated for gear and target species assemblage combinations in terms of volume and value, as well as by gear and species for the top value species from each region. This disaggregation allows for identification of key gear types for fisheries from each region and provides a ten year (2002-2011) overview of changes in the distribution and quantity of landings detailing the recent evolution in the fisheries in English waters.

Further analysis in Section 10 considers the distribution and value of landings according to the ten marine plan areas, in order to broadly identify types of fishing activity from each of the regions. This provides guidance on where further investigation of particular fisheries sectors may be needed in introducing and implementing marine plans. Section 11 takes a more detailed overview of the East of England inshore and offshore Marine Plan areas (as the first areas to benefit from marine plans) with information provided on activity at a finer resolution based on the most recent analysis of Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and inshore sightings data. Landings are further analysed by month for the East of England in order to identify the seasonality of particular fisheries where it occurs.

This broad and extensive nature of this review meant it took account of a huge amount of information. In doing so a number of areas were identified where further detailed analysis could provide support to the MMOs operational fisheries management functions. Key issues include; increasing visibility of evidence through effective metadata management and increasing collaboration with key partners such as the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) and the Environment Agency (EA); greater resolution of where and when fishing is taking place through extension of the approaches developed to analyse Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data, improving the temporal and spatial coverage of analysis and its accuracy (in particular in relation to non-UK vessels); implementing cost effective methods for including activity information on vessels under twelve metres; improving approaches to the collection and analysis of economic and social data, and improved structures for data sharing with stakeholders in order to aid evaluation and interpretation of a complex evidence base.

For aquaculture there is a need to improve the resolution of data so that overlapping areas of shellfish wild capture and aquaculture sites can be distinguished. Consideration of the suitability of future areas where aquaculture may have a role to play in sustainable development is also important and can be approached through identification of coastal areas which have the key bio-chemical and physiological characteristics that may support expansion within environmental limits given current and future technological developments.

Recreational sea angling plays an important socio-economic contribution to coastal communities yet there is currently little information on the scale and value of activity. Initiatives such as angling 2012 will play an important role in allowing management of angling alongside other activities in the marine environment.

There is an extensive evidence base relating to commercial marine fisheries activity and resource distribution and necessarily not all of this information could be covered here. Nevertheless, by virtue of setting out the current understanding this broad and extensive review has identified a number of key evidence areas which require strengthening in order to support the MMOs fisheries management functions. As such, the MMO should now be well placed to work with stakeholders to shape their fisheries evidence programme to meet their future needs.

January 2013

Further Reading

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