Outer Hebrides creel limitation pilot: research and evaluation

Presents the findings of the survey made into the operational implications and socio-economic impacts of the Outer Hebrides Creel Limitation Pilot on fishers.

Materials and Methods

Target Audience

The data collection was directed towards all parties that may have been impacted by the CLP. This included static gear CLP participants and non-participants, either skippers or crew, mobile gear fishers, and key stakeholders such as seafood processors. The wide remit for this survey was to encourage as many respondents as possible to participate in the study and allow for the possibility of potential wide-reaching social and economic impacts.

Survey Design

The survey was designed and distributed using Qualtrics XM software version 06:10/2022 (Qualtrics, 2005). Questions were broken down into several sections. The first gathered some essential information about the participant (e.g. plate number, homeport, target species and years of fishing). Following this were sections addressing changes in fishing activity, levels of gear conflict, well-being and economic situation as a result of the CLP. Lastly, there was a section where feedback could be provided on the implementation and details of the pilot. A variety of question types were included to help maintain interest, including multiple-choice, free text, Likert-type and rank order. The survey duration was predicted at 12.6 minutes and was reviewed by academics at the University of St Andrews, social researchers at Marine Scotland and the secretary of the Western Isles Fishermen's Association (WIFA) before distribution. The online survey can be found in Appendix 1.

Interview Design

It is suggested that longer surveys result in higher proportions of drop-off where surveys are started but go unfinished. Indeed, in their handbook, Qualtrics recommends keeping surveys to less than 15 minutes on a computer and 7 minutes on a mobile device to prevent high drop-offs (QualtricsXM, 2019). As a result, the online survey component of the project was concise to cover the different aspects of the project brief in a limited number of questions. To gain additional information, a semi-structured interview was also designed for fishers and processors. This was expected to flesh out the gaps in the survey data by allowing interviewees to expand on why they hold their opinions and to prompt lines of questioning that were not included in the online survey. Additional themes curated into the interviews included health and safety, relationships between fishers, changes to shellfish stocks and concerns for the industry. The semi-structured interviews for fishers and processors can be found in Appendix 2 and 3 respectively.

Survey Distribution and Interview Sourcing

Surveys were distributed in several ways, predominantly via a series of emails to WIFA members between the 16th of July and the 17th of September 2022 over 9 weeks. The email contained a weblink for the survey and information about the prize draw to incentivise participation. Face-to-face interviews were conducted exclusively on a field trip to the Outer Hebrides by the research team from the 17th-22nd July 2022. Potential interview participants were opportunistically approached by members of the research team either at a pier side, harbour or at one of three WIFA fisheries meetings that took place across the islands during the visit. Researchers began interviewing in Barra and Vatersay, working their way progressively north through the Uists and Benbecula and ending in Harris and Lewis, giving a broad geographic spread to the interview participants. For those that did not wish to be interviewed, a flyer with a QR code, detailing the online survey was given. Interview and survey participants were provided with participant information and given the opportunity to ask any questions and then to provide their consent. Further consent was required for interviewees that agreed to have their interviews recorded on an audio recording device for subsequent transcription and analysis. Advertising campaigns for the survey and interview work were limited by time, budgets and communication channels, therefore it was not possible to target fishers that own vessels not registered to the Outer Hebrides, but fish in Hebridean waters.

The project was approved by the School of Biology Ethics Committee on behalf of the University Teaching and research Ethics Committee at the University of St Andrews (UTREC) (Approval Code: BL16415).

Data Analysis

Audio files from the face-to-face interviews were auto-transcribed using the transcribe function in Microsoft® Word for Microsoft 365 MSO (Version 2212 Build 16.0.15928.20196)and Caption.Ed software (2.2.6) and cross-checked by a researcher to ensure accurate transcription. Online survey data were downloaded from Qualtrics and analysed using Microsoft® Excel® for Microsoft 365 MSO (Version 2212 Build 16.0.15928.20196) and RStudio (R Core Team, 2019). Percentages for answers to multiple-choice answer questions were calculated. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number in the text. For open-ended questions, responses were coded into themes and tabulated by the researchers. For rank order questions, the average rank for each item was calculated to give a definitive order from the cohort of survey participants. Transcribed interviews were analysed using the qualitative data analysis software NVivo 1.7 (1533) (QSR International, 2022). For each interview, the participant was designated certain attributes, including location, fishery, gear type and whether they were participating in the CLP or had a University of St Andrew (USTAN) tracker on their vessel. Next, the interviews were coded into a variety of themes, defined a priori, consisting of the project aims, plus any additional themes that emerged from the interviews for thematic analysis. The codes were refined and the codebook detailing the final coding framework can be found in Appendix 4. Any quotations used withing this report have been paraphrased and anonymised to prevent recognition.

In some instances, it was appropriate to test if there was a significant relationship between two variables (such as the species fished and the location of a fisher in the Hebrides) to better understand the nature of the fishery and how that might influence responses. Fisher's Exact Tests were used to test for independence between two categorical variables, where the assumptions could not be met for Chi2 Tests. The general formula to calculate a p-value using a Fisher's Exact Test on a 2x2 contingency table is illustrated below (1) whereby a,b,cand d are the four cell counts in the contingency table, nis the total (a+b+c+d), and prepresents the p-value.

Mathematical Equation

Fisher's Exact Testing uses the marginal values of the contingency table to compute the probability that the values could be more extreme. Statistical significance and, therefore, a dependency between the two variables is determined if p<0.05.


Email: inshore@gov.scot

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