NAFC wins flatfish contract –

NAFC wins flatfish contract Published:  04 June, 2008

SHETLAND’S NAFC Marine Centre, in partnership with Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA), has won a tender to undertake a six month research project on the fishery for megrim through the Scottish Industry Science Partnership (SISP) fund.

The ultimate aim of the study is to quantify the apparent disparity between the quota set for megrim by the European Commission and the abundance of stock in the waters around Shetland with a view to assisting industry representatives and the Scottish Government in the end of year fisheries negotiations.

Megrim is a species of flatfish that occur throughout much of the north-eastern Atlantic and over a wide depth range.

They are caught in the fisheries for whitefish and their abundance appears to have increased in recent years in parts of the northern North Sea.

However, very little is known about their biology and data on their abundance is scarce as they are not one of the main species for which scientific assessments are undertaken.

As such, the quota for megrim has been set on a precautionary basis and, as the quota is low compared to the abundance of megrim, fishermen are being forced to either discard large quantities of good quality fish or move onto different fishing areas.

Project leader, Dr Chevonne Laurenson, explained how the study came about.

“Shetland fishermen have recently been highlighting the problem with megrim quotas, which appear to be low compared to reported abundances of megrim on the fishing grounds.

“This inevitably means that fishermen are forced to discard fish.

“We are delighted to win this tender and the project is already underway with a scientific observer at sea collecting biological information on the species from catch samples and recording the quantities of megrim kept and discarded from every haul.

“A tally book scheme is being set up so that participating vessels can record the volume of megrim caught, landed and discarded.

“At the end of the six month period, a report will be prepared for the funding body SISP, which will also be circulated to industry representatives and the Scottish Government.

“We hope that access to this information will be useful in informing the December fisheries negotiations.

“Our ultimate aim is to quantify exactly how much discarding fishermen are being forced to do as a result of the current quota levels.

“Megrim is a high value fish and if, as fishermen have been reporting, its abundance has increased, we hope the data collected in this project can be used by relevant bodies to influence the end of year fisheries negotiations to attain a quota that reflects a more realistic stock level.

“We are delighted to be able to undertake work on such an important and topical issue in partnership with industry.

“This is a particularly relevant project for Shetland and underlines exactly why the NAFC Marine Centre was established.”

Any fishermen not already approached but interested in participating should contact Dr Chevonne Laurenson on 01595 772306 or email is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.