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FISHERY DATA COLLECTION

HIGH SEAS/EEZ: As was highlighted by several delegates, the FAO has been instrumental in gathering data on high seas fisheries. Yet some participants insisted that there was a need to define the kind of catch that was involved, and particularly if this effort was not to be limited to straddling and highly migratory species. The past work of the FAO also raises the point of whether data on high seas fisheries should be compatible with that gathered on EEZ fisheries. At most, 10% of the fishing takes place on the high seas and, therefore, the data should be consistent within and outside the EEZ. Other questions raised included: what reporting is already being done; are specific zones being covered, and what types of logbook statistics are being compiled.

REPORTING OF DATA: Discussion focussed on what catch figures should be included: discards and undersized fish, catch of targeted species and non-targeted species, biological composition of catch, number of vessels, capacity and activity. There is also a need to distinguish what is caught inside and outside the EEZ. There was concern that data from within EEZs are a matter of national sovereignty. Data collected should be representative. There was also discussion on the reliability and the timeliness of the data gathered from log sheets and data bases.

It was suggested that data be reported by gear, year, longitude and latitude. Other comments included: data can be given on biological composition; the possibility of having minimum sets of standards that national statistics offices must meet; should data be sampled on transshipment or at point of sale; and is data on the stock as a whole being provided.

DATA ANALYSIS: Discussion focussed on the treatment of the raw data. Questions raised included: for what purpose are the data collected and is there an effort being made to harmonize the collection of data. Data collection should have two goals: to deal with the impact of fishing on the stocks and to be used for scientific purposes. It was indicated that data gathered from research or scientific vessels should be treated separately from sampling catches.

DATA TRANSMISSION AND REPOSITORIES: Discussion focussed on whom data should be transmitted to, in what form, to do what, and according to what rules. It was suggested that either regional organizations or, when there are none, coastal States can serve as data repositories. Regional organizations, acting as the collecting agents, can then assemble data the way the FAO does. The FAO could be the ultimate archives holder. Some delegates were not convinced that coastal States should have control of the information on data exchange and stressed the need for a free flow of information. On the form in which data should be transmitted, it was mentioned that some countries have national statistics offices and that their format should be used. Other suggestions included use of FAO formats or regional organization formats. The data gathered may then be used to determine maximum sustainable yield (MSY) or ecological models in the future. Data banks should be linked to each other. It was also asked to what extent provisions in existing treaties shed light on cooperative arrangements. Data should be exchanged among as many countries as possible. Data sharing can be compulsory.

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