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03/07/13 12:46

Fishermen adding to their skills

Skippers go back to school.

Scottish fishermen are being offered the chance to supplement their income by participating in scientific research.

Skippers from across Scotland are attending a two-day training event at the University of Aberdeen to learn how to sample and measure catches of fish. Once they have completed the course the fishermen will have the opportunity to participate in paid work with Marine Scotland Science.

The training is being led by fisheries biologists from the university who will be giving talks, practical demonstrations and leading team-work exercises. Participants will gain a good understanding of sampling, accurate measuring and recording and be shown how this information is used to provide fish stock estimates.

There will be opportunities to improve fish identification skills and training will also be given in the collection of ‘earbones’ which help scientists calculate the age of fish.

The Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead visited the University to see the training, which was paid for by the Scottish Government, and meet with the skippers.

Mr Lochhead said:

“In a time of limited resources and increasing calls for more science, greater involvement of industry is a natural development.

"I’m pleased that we are able to offer Scottish skippers the opportunity to undertake paid science and research work. This will have the double benefit of making up potential income lost by vessels not actually fishing commercially while also giving us a better understanding of the fish stocks and their distribution off the West Coast, allowing us to better manage a sustainable fishery for the future.”

Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation said:

"The SFF enthusiastically supports this initiative as a willing partner. Every fishing boat Skipper is aware of his environment and of changes to it, so the training of fishermen to make scientific observations and record and report them in a way that will contribute to stock assessment is the first step of potentially huge advance."

Nick Bailey, Programme Manager Sustainable Fisheries, Marine Scotland Science said:

“I have been looking forward, for some time, to this opportunity to work with fishermen to further enhance the information available to science and ultimately to the fisheries management process which affects a wide variety of stakeholders. Fishing vessels and fishermen provide a potentially large resource for additional sampling and their involvement helps to build their trust in the scientific process and confidence in the information being used.

“In order for information provided by them to be used and trusted in international science forums such as ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), it is important that a scientific approach is followed which this training course provides. Fairly soon after the training, we will have an opportunity to put things into practise when a series of collaborative industry/science surveys begins on the West Coast of Scotland and fishermen will be actively involved in the fish sampling process”

Notes to editors

Once they have completed the course the skippers are eligible to bid for charters set up in order to conduct surveys. The charter process falls under Scottish Government procurement rules.

Skippers have been paid a fee to attend the two-day course and have had travel and accommodation paid for by the Scottish Government.

MSS, in discussion with industry, is proposing to establish quarterly surveys of the west coast of Scotland through the remainder of 2013 and first half of 2014. The plan is to cover both offshore and inshore areas and to provide an overall picture of the seasonal distribution and abundance of a range of fish species.