Fish and fisheries research to inform ScotMER evidence gaps and future strategic research in the UK: review

This study undertook a literature review and consultation with key stakeholders to establish current knowledge for evidence gaps identified in the ScotMER Fish and Fisheries evidence map. This report includes research recommendations to help fill remaining strategic priority gaps.

This document is part of a collection

Evidence Gap FF.12 Inshore populations/distribution

Review of current knowledge

The lack of detailed information on the distribution of inshore fish populations has been highlighted as a key evidence gap for the development of EFH maps in inshore waters (see "Evidence Gap FF.10: Essential fish habitat"). In this context, the term "inshore", relates to shallow coastal areas of under 20 m in depth.

Broad scale fish monitoring programmes at the regional scale, such as the International Bottom Trawl Surveys (IBTS) coordinated by ICES, allow the collection of long-term consistent standardised data on fish populations. However, the focus of these types of surveys is mainly on commercial fish stocks and they tend to cover offshore waters. The lack of a monitoring programme for inshore fish assemblages, that is coordinated and standardised at the regional scale, makes assessing and evaluating the status of inshore fish communities difficult.

In order to fill this gap, Natural England recently commissioned the University of Hull to perform a study aimed at developing a regional pilot monitoring programme for inshore fish communities in the Southwest regional sea area of England. As part of the project the following three linked reports have been published:

  • Franco et al (2020a) – A review of methods for the monitoring of inshore fish biodiversity.
  • Franco et al (2020b) – An assessment of the viability of fish monitoring techniques for use in a pilot approach in Southwest England; and
  • Franco et al (2020c) – Regional monitoring plan for inshore fish communities in Southwest England.

It is intended that the outputs of these reports will be used to underpin a trial of inshore fish monitoring in English inshore wates, which will seek to eventually integrate inshore fish monitoring into the wider UK marine biodiversity monitoring programme.

Next steps in research

As described above, the lack of detailed information on the distribution of inshore fish populations has been identified as a key knowledge gap for the development of EFH in inshore waters.

In order to address this knowledge gap, it is recommended that an inshore fish monitoring strategy is developed for implementation across UK regions. The development and implementation of such strategy on an UK-wide basis would require a collaborative approach amongst government agencies and regions and the identification of existing monitoring work of relevance to inshore waters already being undertaken across the UK (i.e. monitoring carried out by Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs), Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups (RIFGs) and other relevant organisations).



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