Enhancing knowledge of small-scale fisheries is crucial to enabling their effective management. Though a range of methods for data collection exist for small-scale fisheries operating in the Atlantic Area, the broad diversity of the sector means that no one method is appropriate for the needs of all end-users. As part of our work to enhance innovation in SSF, CABFishMan has undertaken a review of existing methods of data collection in the small-scale sector, with the view of creating a tool to enable stakeholders to select the method that is best-suited to their fishery.

Understanding small-scale fisheries
Small-scale fisheries represent an important sector of many Northeast Atlantic fleets, and are receiving growing attention as part of the Common Fisheries Policy reform and Maritime Spatial Planning initiatives. Several recent studies have highlighted the need to improve available knowledge of SSF in order to secure their sustainable development (see FAO Voluntary Guidelines for securing sustainable SSF). Contributing to this goal, CABFishMan is an international project aimed at improving the protection of the marine environment and marine resources in the Northeast Atlantic by establishing collaborative, ecosystem-sensitive approaches to SSF management.

Breaking the cycle of small-scale fisheries data collection
Despite their prevalence in European and Atlantic waters, knowledge of best-practice methods of data collection in SSF is currently lacking. This has led to the collection of data that is often incomplete or of poor quality, and that underplays the fisheries’ wider importance. Furthermore, the diversity of gear, target species, seasonality, and geographical range seen across SSF fleets means that methodologies for monitoring typically used in large-scale fisheries often require specific adaptations to render them fit for purpose. CABFishMan has produced a comprehensive overview of the various methodologies, census, and sampling approaches available for use in SSF, with an evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of each, and recommending best practice. Additionally, the overview draws upon case studies from European countries (Spain, France and the United Kingdom, among others) to explore how innovative technology can be used for data collection in SSF, for example by improving knowledge of spatial mapping to resolve issues surrounding competing use for marine space or enabling self-sampling programs. Such approaches are rooted in the ongoing collaboration between scientists and fishers and, as such, represent a powerful resource in advancing our knowledge of SSF.

Why is data collection so important in small-scale fisheries?
SSF are integral sources of income, culture, and heritage for coastal communities across the Northeast Atlantic. Effective data collection enables a deeper understanding of the role that SSF play, and can ensure that they remain resilient to external factors such as fluctuations in local and regional ecosystem resources, and conflicts with other marine users (e.g. renewable energy, tourism and leisure, conservation). In addition, SSF can have significant impact on the welfare of coastal resources and marine habitats, providing important provisioning services, which must be monitored. Finally, there is a need for up-to-date information on SSF activity to support improved regulation at the EU level.

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