In order to make successful use of self-sampling of catches by fishers, it is important that more attention is paid to communication between fishers, scientists and data-users. This is the conclusion of a recent article by researchers at IMARES Wageningen UR
Photo: Kees Groeneveld of IMARES in conversation with Cees Sperling of the OD6, during the cod monitoring.
Within the context of research cooperation, self-sampling of catches by fishers offers significant advantages over only using scientific observers. More information can be gathered about the fleet's catches with better temporal and spatial coverage and at a relatively lower cost. However, there is the possibility of doubt as to whether the sampling has been carried out according to the rules; perhaps the fishers might attempt to influence the results in their advantage.
The article was written within the context of the GAP2* project which studies collaboration between the research and fisheries. The article examines IMARES's existing self-sampling programmes on the basis of the guidelines for research collaboration. The self-sampling programmes clarify how much of the catch is discarded, which is important for stock assessments, for obtaining MSC certification or for testing new types of fishing gear such as the pulse.
So far, scientists involved in these projects have primarily dealt with issues of data-acceptance by developing protocols and carrying out statistical data checks. They have thereby clearly shown that the results of self-sampling by fishers are just as reliable as those from scientific observers; as there are bias issues attached to every sampling method.
The article shows that improvements might be made if self-sampling is understood as a form of cooperative research. Thereby creating more space for direct communication with fishers and paying attention to discussing the dilemmas of research collaboration with all parties involved. For instance, it is important to stress that while the outcomes of research are neutral, their application within policy can be value laden. It is important that all parties concerned can make a clear distinction between the various roles for research, fishers and government bodies.