Derivation of Groundfish Survey Monitoring and Assessment Data Product for the Northeast Atlantic Area
Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Vol 8 No 16
Monitoring and assessment of fish communities is essential to demonstrating the achievement of GES across the waters of the Northeast Atlantic covered by the MSFD. Coastal MSs bordering the Northeast Atlantic have invariably nominated their groundfish surveys as part of their monitoring programmes to supply the data necessary to derive the indicators that will be used to assess the state of fish communities, both within their national waters and across the whole Northeast Atlantic region. Data obtained by these groundfish surveys are, for the most part, freely available for download from the DATRAS database portal on the ICES website. Data are initially checked by national data centres prior to submission to ICES and a further screening process is applied at ICES before the data are accepted and incorporated into the DATRAS database. However, the DATRAS screening process was implemented in 2009 only for data from 2004 onwards. Some survey time-series extend back to the 1960s and more historic data may not have been subject to the same level of quality control as these more recent data. Data were initially collected to address fisheries management needs, which primarily focused attention on commercial species. Gradual adoption of an ecosystem approach to management has raised the importance of non-target species, in order to facilitate the development and application of ecological indicators for the broader fish community. Thus the type of information collected, the level of detail and resolution in the data, has gradually evolved over time. These historic changes in groundfish survey practices have left a quality assurance legacy in the data that needs to be addressed to ensure that the groundfish survey monitoring programmes are fully fit to meet modern day needs of the MSFD. Historically the surveys operated by different countries have followed their own particular sets of protocols and practices. The procedure for uploading data to DATRAS has tended to preserve these national differences in data format, and this has necessitated the inclusion in DATRAS of numerous additional fields, each informing as to how other fields in the database should be interpreted. Here 19 surveys involving a dozen different countries are examined. In order to derive a single format, quality assured monitoring programme data product covering the entire Northeast Atlantic region, these national, inter-survey, inconsistencies all need resolution. In many instances, particularly in the more historic data, key information is either absent or incorrect, and these missing or erroneous values need replacement by modelled estimates. This document describes the process by which these issues were all resolved to derive 19 separate consistent and fully quality assured survey data products. These data products constitute a unified monitoring programme covering the continental shelf waters of the Northeast Atlantic, from northern Norway to Gibraltar, which can facilitate assessment of the state of fish communities across this whole region. Each survey is first described and a brief history provided. A strict error checking protocol was developed and applied to data in all key fields used in deriving the survey data products. Details of each of these are provided in this document. Detailed descriptions are provided of the two types of file that make up each individual survey data product: “Sampling Information” and “Biological Information”.