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EMODnet Human Activities » News » Fishing for data – EMODnet and the oldest maritime activity

Fishing for data – EMODnet and the oldest maritime activity

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Together with shipping, fishing is probably the maritime activity par excellence. There is evidence that humans have been harvesting food from the sea since the times of hunters-gatherers, who soon learned to also produce pots for cooking the fish they caught.

Things have evolved since then, and whether carried out by large trawlers or small vessels, fishing is now a professional activity that makes a significant contribution to nutrition, as well as to economic growth, especially in coastal communities.

Nevertheless, as is often the case with any human activity, fishing also poses threats to the environment, especially in such a delicate ecosystem as the ocean. Far from being an argument against the practice itself, our green consciousness should call for environmentally friendly solutions to exploit marine resources so to ensure that this traditional activity can be conducted in a sustainable way. The EU has set in place several initiatives with this objective in mind, from “total allowable catches” (TACs) – which are limits (expressed in tonnes or numbers) set for most commercial fish stocks – to regulations on selective fishing gear to prevent under-sized fish from being caught.

At EMODnet Human Activities, we have developed a ‘Fisheries’ theme that is made of up two main datasets: ‘Fish catches’ and ‘First sale of fish’. ‘Fish catches’ is based on data reported by Member States to Eurostat on catches of fish, crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic organisms. The data are broken down by species and FAO fishing area for EU and associated countries and are reported in live weight equivalent of the landings. It truly is an amazing dataset, with the time series beginning as far back as 1950. The species – some of which are barely known by the average human being – have further been grouped into ‘Main Commercial Species’ (MCS) and ‘Commodity Groups’ (CG) by the EMODnet Human Activities team, so as to make it easier for our users to browse the dataset.

The dataset on ‘First sale of fish’ on the other hand, is based on EUMOFA’s data and reports the monthly volume (net weight in kg), value (Euro) and price (Euro/kg) of species sold at several places of sale across the EU. It is updated twice a year and covers a time series from 2007 to 2017. In this case too, species are grouped into MCSs and CGs, which are concepts developed by EUMOFA itself. We are currently evaluating the feasibility of establishing a machine-to-machine connection between EMODnet Human Activities and EUMOFA, so as to ensure that our users will always have access to the latest available data.

But the future has in store something more for EMODnet Human Activities’ users. With the release of the long-awaited vessel density map in 2018, it will also be possible to track the movements of fishing vessels (at least those longer than 15 metres) and – by complementing this information with additional data – to estimate fishing effort and intensity.

However, as our users have now learned, EMODnet is an iterative work in progress and we’re always looking for new opportunities to improve the information we’re providing. Therefore, if, like us, you too are fascinated with the world of fisheries, we invite you to reach out and let us know what is missing and what else we could offer. Help us make our ‘Fisheries’ theme even richer!

The information and views set out in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Commission. Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on the European Commission's behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information therein.

April 9th, 2018 | Written by

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