FIS001: Review of fisheries knowledge

Start Date: Jan 2015

End Date: Sep 2015

Main Contractor(s): University of Aberdeen

Other Sponsor(s): European Fisheries Fund

Extended Title: A review of the status of Scotland’s capture fisheries and research and innovation projects highlighting knowledge gaps and data resources

Main Research Category: Research prioritisation

View Final Report

View Fisheries Research Database


Project Objectives

Objective  1. Identify, through a combination of review and consultation, research requirements relevant to selected Scottish inshore fisheries to inform future FiS activity in this area.

I. Establish the range of inshore stocks to be considered.

II. Review the current status of these stocks

III. Identify gaps in the science and data

IV. Propose priorities for future work

Objective 2. Review available data on marine commercial capture fisheries in Scotland to provide a concisesummary of their status with respect to stock management.

I. Prepare a summary report regarding the status of key marine fish stocks in Scotland and key management concerns related to the biology of the species, environmental impacts and more applied issues including implementation of the reformed CFP and Scottish fisheries policy.

II. On the basis of the above, prepare a summary document identifying key knowledge gaps.

Objective 3. Compile a simple spreadsheet database of previously funded research (UK and EU) over the last decade, relevant to Scottish fisheries. The database will be designed to provide a basis for an online searchable resource available through the FIS website. 

I. Undertake a scoping study to determine the technical specifications of creating a database with above features.

II. Populate the database with data gathered from publicly available sources iii. Develop a plan for operationalising the database at a future date

Objective 4. Review the process and practice of stakeholder engagement and influence in management of the Scottish fishing industry, with the objective of improvement and optimisation.

I. Prepare a summary of past experience with stakeholder engagement highlighting the challenges and opportunities for future

II. Prepare a list of priorities for engagement will be prepared so as to identify fisheries having the greatest need


Summary of Project Outcomes

Fishing is a significant industry for Scotland’s rural communities. Scotland’s marine fishing industry is the largest in the UK and the 4th largest in the European Union (EU).  Over the past five years, Scotland’s sea fish and shellfish landings have averaged around 370,000 t with a value of over £450 million p.a.  The industry provides employment to almost 5000 fishermen, working on over 2000 vessels, most of whom are located in rural areas away from the major conurbations. 

There are approximately 139 recognised stocks of marine fish and shellfish which account for 99% of total landings by Scottish vessels.  Most of the stocks occurring within 12 nautical miles of the shore (inshore fisheries) are shellfish and are managed nationally. Fish stocks that occur beyond national jurisdictions are managed predominantly under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and bilateral arrangements with neighbouring coastal states such as Norway.

This document reports on the outcome of a review by members of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS) Fisheries Science Forum in response to a research call from Fisheries Innovation Scotland (FiS).  Its purpose was to: (a) provide a summary of the status of Scotland’s fish and shellfish stocks; (b) summarise previously funded research into a searchable database; (c) review the process of stakeholder engagement; and (d) identify relevant research requirements.

In 2013, of the 63 internationally managed stocks, 11 were sustainable, 4 were overfished, 5 were declining and 3 were recovering based on internationally agreed reference points.  40 stocks were undefined either due to lack of data or reference points. These unclassified stocks represented approximately 22% of the value of landings.  Of the 76 nationally managed stocks, one

quarter of these were overfished in excess of rates consistent with maximum sustainable yield (MSY). There are no estimates of the abundance of any of the crab and lobster stocks.

A database of relevant research projects carried out since 2005 was constructed.  This has details of over 130 projects, funded by the European Commission, the Scottish government and other national funders. Details in the database include a project summary, contact details of project leaders, project websites, and locations of final reports.  The database was built in Excel and is searchable using instructions contained therein.  It is publicly available on the FiS website at 

A synthesis of management concerns associated with the various stocks considered is provided with a summary of key knowledge gaps.  Additional consideration is given to the challenges which are common to many stocks.  These are further summarised by listing over 40 research requirements to fill these gaps, ranked according to importance, impact and likely success.  These requirements for further research were grouped into key topics which include: the landing obligation, inshore fisheries, climate change, stock status and MSY.

Finally, the role of stakeholders in the science and management of fisheries is examined.  Stakeholder engagement is reviewed from examples throughout the world, including the EU, USA, Canada and Norway.  A more detailed analysis was conducted of Scottish systems of stakeholder engagement.  Generally, local bottom-up approaches were more effective than initiatives driven by larger institutions: results-based management (RBM) and participatory approaches are more likely to succeed.