There is so much controversy around regarding the accuracy or otherwise of the scientific advice that is provided primarily by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and based on data provided by, amongst others, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) in the UK, that no one seems quite sure of what is actually out there in our seas.
It is certainly clear that the observations of working fishermen differ markedly in many respects from the results of surveys, studies and computer modeling that are used as a basis for the setting of Total Allowable Catches that in turn produce the Member State quotas that are then subject to debate and decision making at the annual Fisheries Council, held in December of each year.
What is vital, and only now beginning to be recognised and accepted by fisheries scientists, managers and ICES itself is that the observations of fishermen are valid and could make a significant contribution to their knowledge and understanding.
NUTFA actively encourage members to make a positive contribution to data collection, and to assist fisheries scientists through practical means to more clearly understand marine processes.
NUTFA recognises the need to break down barriers between scientists and working fishermen and to replace suspicion with trust. This obviously requires an effort on both sides but we have to start somewhere!
NUTFA Members are well placed to contribute to these processes, working primarily on inshore grounds that often carry a higher level of biodiversity than some offshore areas. In addition, the recent headlong rush to introduce Marine Protected Areas (MPA's) tends to be focussed on these coastal areas, making it important that the knowledge, as well as the requirements of the inshore sector, are fully taken into account.
NUTFA is therefore committed to making a significant contribution to fisheries science and encourages members to act accordingly.