An industry workshop in Peterhead explored plans to extend the use of the BATmap bycatch avoidance tool in Scottish fisheries

By Tara Marshall, senior lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Aberdeen

Once participating skippers had two years’ experience using the BATmap bycatch avoidance tool, it was time for canvass users for feedback and identify priorities for future development. In May 2022, a workshop was held in Peterhead bringing together skippers and representatives from the four producer organisations that participated in the development and deployment of real-time reporting (RTR) in Scottish waters.

Dan Martin, an Alaskan skipper with 38 years’ experience catching pollock, cod, rockfish and king crab, attended the workshop to speak about using RTR to reduce salmon bycatch in the fishery.

He told participants: “I’ve found that regardless of the advancements we were able to achieve with our gear, the single most effective tool for managing salmon bycatch is the sharing of information. Whether it’s SeaState that I use in Alaska or BATmap that has been introduced in Scotland, the real- time, boots-on-deck information that we’re able to access is invaluable.”

With his wealth of experience, Dan was able to suggest feasible directions for growth and compare the Scottish and Alaskan experiences.

Workshop participants agreed that BATmap was able to meet two key objectives: helping to avoid unwanted catches, and producing data to inform scientific discussions affecting the demersal fisheries on the west of Scotland – for example spurdog.

It was also recognised that the real-time sharing of catch information across a trusted group represents a significant advance towards results-based fisheries management and demonstrates how technology can contribute to sustainable fishing.

Discussions focused on making specific recommendations to guide the next phase of development. Several technical changes to improve both the capabilities and the uptake of BATmap were identified.

Alaskan skipper Dan Martin told the workshop: “Real-time, boots-on- deck information is invaluable.”

Skippers requested greater assurance that data would not be used or shared without first consulting with them. To allay their concerns, a data governance policy is now in place to ensure that data is not shared with third parties without the consent of all participants.

Validation of the contributed catch data was also discussed. This is an important aspect of the process, particularly if data is to be utilised for scientific purposes. In Alaska, industry- funded observers enter catch data, but there is growing industry support for options that use remote electronic monitoring.

As skippers become more experienced in using BATmap, they will generate more suggestions for improvement. Several workshop attendees are planning to visit their counterparts in Alaska next year. Dan Martin will play host, arranging discussions with Alaskan skippers to see first- hand how RTR is being used at sea. The ‘seeing is believing’ approach will spur the next phase of BATmap’s development and implementation.

Funding for the next phase of BATmap’s development has already been secured from participating POs and Seafish. The next phase of the project is underway, and will include continued refinement of the catch app and associated databases, while also developing analytical tools for the general reporting and dissemination of information, such as catch reports, catch maps and seasonality effects.

Efforts to increase the number of west of Scotland vessels using BATmap will continue, so as to maximise the information being captured. The BATmap team is currently considering new opportunities to adapt BATmap for use in other fisheries. The project team is also happy to share ideas about best practice based on its experience of rolling out BATmap on the west of Scotland.

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This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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