The (statutory) fisheries research at sea is to a large extent organised and defined at an international level. The EU Common Fisheries Policy is based on information gathered by the Data Collection Framework (DCF).
The Dutch DCF obligations fall within the Statutory Research Tasks (WOT) for fisheries research. In other EU member countries, data collection is organised within similar programmes. The European Commission has formulated guidelines detailing what information the member-states are to collect within the DCF. These guidelines are part of a set of decisions and regulations obligating member states within the EU to collect data on fisheries and fishery resources. The data includes biological information on fisheries resources, as well as economic and statistic data on fishing, aquaculture and the fish-processing industry. The current guidelines came into effect mid-2017.
The DCF stipulates what data is to be collected, and when the information is to be delivered. Quality criteria have been included. The mandatory collaboration between member-states in collecting and analysing data is also described. This collaboration is organised in regional coordination groups (RCGs) and a commitment to coordinate fisheries-independent data collection with the end-users of said data. The main end-users in the Netherlands are (in addition to the government) ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), CECAF (Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic) and SPRFMO (South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation).
The data must be collected in all regions where the European fleet operates, even if these regions are outside of European waters. Each member-state draws up a multi-year research programme, detailing what information is to be gathered in what year. The EC then assesses whether the plan meets the DCF requirements. If so, the plan may be executed. At the end of the year, the member-state must submit a technical report detailing what has been achieved.
In the Netherlands, the DCF is implemented by Wageningen Marine Research (WMR) and Wageningen Economic Research (WEcR) by commission of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (Dutch acronym: LNV). This responsibility is outsourced to these institutes by the Centre for Fisheries Research (Dutch acronym CVO) and the Centre for Economic Information (CEI). Both WMR and WEcR are part of Wageningen University & Research.
At a national level, the research is coordinated by the national correspondent at the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, who doubles as the Dutch liaison with the EC for all issues concerning the implementation of the DCF.
In 2000, several European Decrees came into effect, obligating member-states to collect annual economic and biological data on marine fisheries resources and the fishing thereof. These decrees combined, previously called the Data Collection Regulation (DCR), have become known as the Data Collection Framework since 2008.
With the DCF, the EU aims to ensure the member-states collect the data needed to implement the European Fisheries Policy. The DCF stipulates in detail what type of information must be gathered. The information relates to supply and endeavours in fisheries as well as information on bycatch and profits and economic data on fisheries and aquaculture. Moreover, the member states must contribute to international surveys with research vessels.
In 2008, the DCF was expanded to include the mandatory gathering of data on recreational marine fishing and on diadromous fish (salmon-like fish and eels in particular). In 2017 the legislation was updated. This update did not have any far-reaching implications for the Netherlands concerning data collection but is more directive in the way the work is coordinated. For example, through joint funding of fisheries-independent surveys. Moreover, the renewed DCF focuses more on safeguarding the accessibility and quality of the data.
WOT work plan
Marine fisheries research is organised and defined at an international level; this includes statutory fisheries research. The EU Common Fisheries Policy is based on information gathered in this (and other similar) programme(s). Europe has drawn up detailed guidelines (Data Collection Framework, DCF) on what information the member states are required to gather. These guidelines came into effect mid-2017.
The research that member states conduct within the framework of the DCF is described in multi-annual work plans1. A progress report is made annually. The Netherlands submitted an update for 2020-2021, based on the 2019 programme, for review by the Commission. This update barely impacts the projects. A concise pilot will be carried out additionally for bycatch of rare species in the pelagic fisheries. Should changes in the DCF work plan be necessary, these may affect the WOT programme for 2020 and 2021.
Changes in European legislation may impact the statutory tasks that pertain to this programme. In the 2014 CFP, a discard ban was announced. This ban applies to Dutch pelagic fisheries since 2015 and was further extended to include demersal fisheries between 2016-2018. In 2019, the discard ban was implemented for all TAC-regulated species. Despite the discard ban, sampling bycatch through observer trips and self-sampling remains essential to validate the composition of the catch, collect data on bycatch and non-quoted species as well as monitoring (for scientific purposes) permitted exceptions.
Funding of the EU contribution to data gathering, as stipulated in the national programmes, has been adjusted since 2014 and is coordinated by the European Marine and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
1 Netherlands Work Plan for data collection in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors 2020-2021, Version 1