Detailed guide: Fishing data collection, coverage, processing and revisions

Marine Management Organisation

October 25
08:30 2019

Fishing statistics are calculated using data collected and processed by fisheries administrations in the UK:

  • Marine Management Organisation (MMO)
  • Marine Scotland
  • Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs - Northern Ireland (DAERA)
  • Welsh Government
  • Departments in Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man

The activity data collected are part of the monitoring and control of fishing activity required by each Member State under various sets of EU legislation. There are two main pieces of legislation that set out these requirements:

This requires skippers to keep and submit logbooks, and provide landing declarations and sales notes.

The responsibility for fisheries management and control within the UK is a devolved matter and there is a significant degree of delegation of responsibility to each administration. Fisheries administrations have autonomy in how they manage activity allowing each administration to structure its operations in ways that suit their own specific management issues. However, all administrations work together to ensure that collectively there are common standards of monitoring and enforcement of EU legislation.

In addition to the reporting requirements that are set out in EU legislation, the master, owner or charterer of a licensed fishing vessel can be required to provide statistical information and other information. Details are in the Sea Fisheries (Conservation) Act 1967 and the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1992.

The method and exact nature of the data collected on fishing activity depends on the length of the vessel.

Data collection for vessels over 10 metres in length

The fishing logbook is the primary method of data collection. It captures data on fishing activity by individual vessels by trip, and for each day of activity within a trip. This includes details of the catch, by species, in terms of the presentation and quantity of fish retained on board. Information is also collected on the fishing gear used and the area where the fish were caught. Area details are division, rectangle and zone as defined by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

Supplying logbook data is legally required for all over 10 metre vessels for catches of all species. Data for UK vessels must be submitted within 48 hours of landing to UK authorities this includes landings into foreign ports.

Landing declarations provide information on the weight and presentation of fish landed by species. As with logbooks, landing declarations must be submitted to authorities within 48 hours of landing.

Sales notes are required in respect of first sales of fish and fishery products. Sales notes for first sales of fish must be submitted within 48 hours of sale (24 hours if submitting electronically) by the registered buyer of the fish, except at designated auction centres where the registered seller has responsibility.

From 1 July 2012, UK fisheries administrations have been enforcing a strict expectation that all UK fishing vessels 15 metres and over in length should be reporting logbook and landing declaration data electronically. Fisheries administrations have now extended this to vessels 12 metres and over in length.

Also, from 1 January 2009, buyers and sellers with an annual turnover of first sale fish of more than 400,000 have been required to submit sales notes electronically. This threshold was reduced to 200,000 from 1 January 2011.

A UK electronic reporting systems (ERS) hub has been set-up to collect, process, and store the data.

The requirements to report data on fishing activity are set out by EU legislation. Each fisheries administration operates a system of checking the individual submissions of data to ensure their accuracy and completeness. The rules applied are common across each administration and based on the structure set out in EU legislation for the fishing logbook, landing declaration and sales notes.

These checks are to ensure that valid data are reported within the returns and that internal checks within the submitted data are carried out to ensure consistency. In addition there are systems in place that carry out cross-checks between the activity data reported and other sources of information on activity. These include satellite position reports and sightings of vessels collected by each administration during air, sea or land surveillance activities.

UK fisheries administrations therefore operate common standards and procedures to ensure the consistent treatment of the data within the collection processes. This ensures that UK data are consistent with EU requirements for completeness and accuracy.

The electronic reporting systems operated by fishing vessels contain a limited range of validation checks to help ensure correct data are reported. The electronic hub that receives and processes the data has additional checks using a suite of business rules and generates failure messages that are set to the vessel operators in cases whether the business rules are breached. Skippers would be required to resubmit corrected data. The data entry systems used to capture information from paper declarations contains similar checks.

In cases where a discrepancy has been identified, corrections are made to the data as appropriate. Any discrepancy found could be indicative of a breach of EU legislation, either in terms of incorrect reporting of activity or the activity reported might be in breach of EU requirements. These discrepancies are investigated and appropriate actions taken.

These can range from a simple verbal instruction to the vessel operator advising them of how to correctly report information, up to a full prosecution of the master and/or owners of the vessels concerned if a serious offence has been found to have been committed. Minor issues are usually corrected during the data capture process. For more serious and larger scale issues then corrections may not be made until after the results of prosecutions are known. Details of recent prosecutions carried out by the MMO can be found in the enforcement news section.

Data collection for vessels 10 metres and under in length

For 10 metre and under vessels, there is no statutory requirement for fishermen to declare their catches. Historically, information for this sector has been collected with the co-operation of the industry and included:

  • log sheets and landing declarations voluntarily supplied by fishermen
  • sales notes and assessments of landings collected from market sources and by officials located in the ports

This data collection has been replaced after the Registration of Buyers and Sellers of First-Sale Fish Scheme was introduced in September 2005. Registered buyers are now legally required to provide sales notes for commercially sold fish.

During 2005 and 2006, UK fisheries administrations introduced a system of restrictive licensing for activity targeted at shellfish. As part of this system, new reporting requirements were introduced requiring fishermen fishing with 10 metre and under vessels to complete diaries of their daily activity to be submitted each month. Summary information from these diaries is now in use in Northern Ireland but was discontinued in the rest of the UK at the end of February 2009.

Data coverage

Data collection for vessels over 10 metres in length aims to achieve full coverage of activity by this sector of the fleet, i.e. these vessels are required to submit complete details on their activity every time they go to sea to fish commercially. For the 10 metre and under sector, landings are recorded on sales notes provided by the registered buyers. Some information, such as gear and fishing area, are not recorded on the sales note but this information is added by coastal staff based on local knowledge of the vessels they administer - for example, from observations of the vessel during inspections at ports or from air and sea surveillance activities as well as discussions with the owner and/or operator of the vessel.

From 1 January 2011 the Isle of Man authorities became fully integrated with the data collection and recording systems operated by mainland fisheries administrations, enabling the inclusion of details of the activity of their vessels that was previously not available. This mea

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