A new data recording system for fish sampling

January 14, 2016 by No Comments | Category Compliance, Marine Directorate general, Marine Directorate Science, Research Vessel Surveys

InfoGraph_FinalAs 2016 gets off to a somewhat stormy start, scientists onboard the MRV Scotia are welcoming a new data recording system that will not only reduce the chance of error but will also speed up the process for recording important statistics.

Fish sampling is a very important part of fisheries research, contributing to a number of strands of work from climate change to establishing fish populations, so the pressure to get the statistics correct, and in a timely manner, is high.

The majority of the sampling completed by Marine Scotland scientists takes place on the largest of its research vessels, the MRV Scotia. Historically this has been a laborious and time consuming process. During a typical groundfish survey three pairs of scientists would be operating in the fish house with one scientist placing the fish on a board marked out in half centimetre intervals and calling out the biological information for each sampled species to the scientist clerking. This information was recorded onto various sheets and packets depending on the requirements for each particular species. Originally, these sheets and packets would have been transported back to the marine laboratory to be entered by a data processor and then subsequently verified by a second individual. Eventually, sometimes after several weeks, the data would be available for analysis. Inevitably, the involvement of so many individuals in the various data processes ultimately increased the potential of mistakes being made.

Now, in the 21st century, scientists are using a fully integrated electronic measuring board that allows six people to carry out measurements simultaneously. Length data can be linked to a number of predefined biological parameters including fish weight, sex and species, and the data is available almost instantaneously. The workstation setup and the boards, pioneered by Cefas, have been modified by Marine Scotland engineers to enhance workstation flexibility. Sample information is uploaded via a central hub  to a server on the ships network. The result being that data collated from the boards can now be viewed and queried in real time.

As you can see from the infographic, in 2015, 487,945 fish were measured by 104 scientists and students during the 159 days where Scotia participated in surveys sampling fish. Blue whiting, Herring, and Haddock made up the largest proportion of the catches with a further 242 different species also being caught and recorded in the waters around Scotland.

Senior Fisheries Biologist Finlay Burns commented: “The new electronic system has seen a 10-15% reduction in the time taken to process each haul. We collect a great deal of data, that is submitted to international databases, and contributes to time series that span many decades. These data are important for assessing the state of the marine environment and the life it supports and are essential for fish stock assessments. By using this system our samplers can enter all the biological data requirements required for each species, using an electronic wand, which speeds up the process and most importantly, improves data quality.”


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