The Succorfish SC2 VMS units were found to provide high quality data on inshore scallop dredging activity around Shetland. Information was easily downloaded and viewed through a secure online database with the ability to use the initial exports to indicate the extent of fishing activity. Units were capable of storing data for a prolonged time during periods of no signal without any loss of information. This is critical in and around coastal areas where a signal is not always possible. Unit reliability was an initial concern with many units failing to send any data after prolonged periods of being switched off. This was mostly overcome by talking with the fishers and providing a troubleshooting guide; however, by fitting the units as per the manufacturer's guidelines direct to the vessel's battery, this problem should be eliminated.
The data produced was of a high quality and is already being incorporated into the stock assessment of scallops and spatial management of the dredge fishery around Shetland. Should there be any requirement to access the data for use in marine spatial planning, there is a defined mechanism in place via the Shetland Marine Spatial Plan and the data sharing agreement and this type of data could be crucial in planning decisions about aquaculture developments, oil pipelines or other seabed infrastructure, and also marine renewables. The integration of data into both fisheries management and marine spatial planning is aided by additional processing of the data. Although the initial exports of the data provided good quality information, further processing added an element of quality control, increased the potential outputs of the data, and refined the final maps. This acts as a quality control mechanism and enhances any interpretation of the mapped data. There are also significant potential gains in combining the data with logbook information which can then be incorporated into stock assessments, spatial management plans for fisheries, and further mapping for inclusion in Marine Spatial Planning. In addition, further processing of the VMS data provides an effective monitoring tool in protecting the environment with regards protected habitats and closed areas.
It is clear from the results of this study that the VMS technology trialled here is a successful method for gaining high quality data on fishing activity in remote rural areas. What the study has also shown is that further processing of this data can greatly enhance its value for use in fisheries management, marine spatial planning, and in protecting the marine environment.
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