Skippers set for Aberdeen University training event

Richard Lochhead visited the university today to attend one of the training sessions. Picture: PA
Richard Lochhead visited the university today to attend one of the training sessions. Picture: PA
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SCOTTISH fishermen are being offered the chance to earn extra cash by participating in scientific research.

Skippers from across Scotland are attending a two-day training event at Aberdeen University to learn how to sample and measure catches of fish. Once they have completed the course, the fishermen will have the opportunity to participate in paid work with Marine Scotland Science.

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Fisheries Secretary, visited the university today to attend one of the training sessions.

He said: “In a time of limited resources and increasing calls for more science, greater involvement of industry is a natural development. I’m pleased that we are able to offer Scottish skippers the opportunity to undertake paid science and research work.

“This will have the double benefit of making up potential income lost by vessels not actually fishing commercially while also giving us a better understanding of the fish stocks and their distribution off the West coast, allowing us to better manage a sustainable fishery for the future.”

Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said: “The SFF enthusiastically supports this initiative as a willing partner. Every fishing boat Skipper is aware of his environment and of changes to it, so the training of fishermen to make scientific observations and record and report them in a way that will contribute to stock assessment is the first step of potentially huge advance.”

Nick Bailey, Programme Manager for Sustainable Fisheries at Marine Scotland Science said: “I have been looking forward, for some time, to this opportunity to work with fishermen to further enhance the information available to science and ultimately to the fisheries management process which affects a wide variety of stakeholders. Fishing vessels and fishermen provide a potentially large resource for additional sampling and their involvement helps to build their trust in the scientific process and confidence in the information being used.

“In order for information provided by them to be used and trusted in international science forums such as ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), it is important that a scientific approach is followed which this training course provides. Fairly soon after the training, we will have an opportunity to put things into practise when a series of collaborative industry/science surveys begins on the West Coast of Scotland and fishermen will be actively involved in the fish sampling process.”

A Scottish Government spokesman explained: “The training is being led by fisheries biologists from the university. Participants will gain a good understanding of sampling, accurate measuring and recording and be shown how this information is used to provide fish stock estimates.

“There will be opportunities to improve fish identification skills and training will also be given in the collection of ‘earbones’ which help scientists calculate the age of fish.”

He added: “Once they have completed the course the skippers are eligible to bid for charters set up in order to conduct surveys.”