A trial was undertaken in 2015 with 18 vessels in the North Sea. Each vessel was fitted with Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) and was required to operate under a discard ban for North Sea (Area IV) cod. Additional quota for use in fully documented fisheries provided for under the 2015 quota regulations was allocated to participants.
The main aims of the trial were to:
- provide evidence and experience from the scheme in advance of the demersal landing obligation being phased in from 2016;
- investigate the potential of using market grading data for reference fleet monitoring;
- better understand the impact of the Catch Quota scheme and the landing obligation on the fishing industry
Fishing operations were monitored for compliance with the requirement to retain and land all catches of cod by means of an audit of REM data and CCTV footage. In addition, the distribution of size-grades of landed cod was analysed as a means of providing an indication of possible high-grading amongst participant and non-participant vessels. Compliance monitoring and grade comparisons were both indicative of compliance with the scheme. In addition, cod length data generated from CCTV footage also correlated closely with the landed size distribution calculated from market grading data. These measures provide confidence that, as in previous years, there is a good level of compliance with the scheme.
The report considers the extent to which REM monitored vessels can be considered as representative of the wider fleet (i.e. to act as a ‘reference fleet’). The results show a significant variation spatially and temporally in the size distribution of cod catch by participant vessels and more recent analysis suggests significant spatial variance between participant and non-participant vessels. Such variance is likely to impact the level of confidence that can be drawn from monitoring a subset of vessels and therefore further analysis in this area is recommended.
Some of the trial participants have reported specific adaptations to avoid juvenile cod. These have included adding square mesh panels, increasing mesh size above legislative minimum requirements and behavioural adaptations. The main behavioural adaption reported has been avoidance of areas with known high levels of undersize fish. Work is ongoing in 2016 to study spatial variance between participant and non-participant fleets. This work has the potential to provide evidence of the reported spatial avoidance by the FDF fleet.
It is considered that there is the potential for REM to provide a means of retrospective auditing of real-time, industry-reported data such as juvenile fish abundance. This could allow juvenile real time closures to be triggered accurately and in genuinely real time. In addition, REM can be used to generate spatial and temporal trends in length frequency data with potential for scientific use.