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The implementation of a data collection programme should follow a normal project cycle. During the planning phase, a legal and institutional framework needs to be put in place, and the current working practices and budget will need to be reviewed, so that appropriate resources can be secured for a sustainable programme. During the implementation phase, the following must be addressed:

· Adequate incentives must be provided to ensure members of the fishing community will fully participate.

· All fisheries staff and others in the programme will need training and supervision.

· Exchange of common experience should be shared between countries.

· Technical committees can be set up to guide the programme.

· Data will need verification using methods integrated into the programme.

· Feedback should be obtained from all those involved to provide information on system performance.

· Finally, the whole system must periodically be appraised to guide adjustments as needs and resources change.


The establishment or improvement of systems for data collection require careful planning to ensure that the implementation proceeds in comprehensive, cost-effective and timely ways. This involves a range of tasks that can be encompassed within a project cycle framework from identification and analysis of needs, through project formulation and budgeting, to system design, implementation, monitoring and appraisal.

Identification and analysis of needs is a crucial phase of the project cycle. Infrastructure requirements, mainly policy, legal and institutional frameworks, are often not given enough emphasis. These issues are sometimes more important for sustaining a Fisheries Information System than more obvious requirements such as assessment of the required information technology.

The most important considerations are:

· The information system policy must be formulated at a high government level, as it will eventually have to provide support for the fisheries policy at this level.

· A legal framework ensuring the active participation of fishermen in providing information must be available in an early stage of development.

· The institutional framework needs to be analysed and then altered to facilitate the active involvement of all fisheries stakeholders and institutions.

· In designing a functional Fisheries Information system, budgeting must consider the current and future personnel and capital assets for a sustainable system.

· In the implementation phase, considerable attention and resources must be directed towards continuous training of all staff involved. Often, this is only superficially considered.

· It is always advisable to start with a pilot system and then expand when the core system has been appraised and proved stable.

The system should be reviewed continuously to ensure it supports fisheries policy and management objectives. The review should include a continuous process of data verification. An iterative appraisal of the design and function will give a higher probability of system adequacy and stability.

Continuous feedback to all stakeholders (e.g. fishers, industry, institutions and enumerators) is essential in sustaining a viable system. Feedback requirements will naturally be different at all levels, and these requirements will have to be specified.


8.2.1 Legal framework
8.2.2 Institutional framework
8.2.3 Working practices
8.2.4 Budgets

8.2.1 Legal framework

The appropriate legal framework and policy instruments need to be placed before the initiation of the operational phase. In particular, legal instruments that oblige the fishing sector to provide the appropriate information on essential variables (e.g. catch and effort) should be enacted.

Legal instruments that govern national, regional and international industrial fishery regimes should always contain a general stipulation that the captains of fishing vessels shall:

"Maintain on board a fishing log which shall be completed on a daily basis as a true record of all fishing activities and related matters in a manner as shall be determined from time to time by....(the Minister/Director/this organisation/this agreement)."
Furthermore, such laws may also allow for the presence of observers who are empowered to:
"Observe fishing operations, evaluate fishing logs, inspect fish storage holds and processing areas, take fish and biological samples and measurements and undertake any other action in the performance of their duties as shall be determined from time to time by....(etc.)".
These records of operations of single vessels at sea may be supplemented by visits of Inspectors at sea or during landings of fish to shore or to other ships. Inspectors are similarly empowered, but will often also have enforcement powers and, where the requirements of the law with regard to information are not fulfilled, can demand immediate compliance under threat or actual sanction.

Log sheets, thus defined in law, are legal documents to which a Captain or senior crew member should add their signature, attesting that they are correct. Unfortunately, all too often, the legal nature of these documents is sometimes overlooked and non-compliance is treated as an administrative failure. In many fisheries, catch logs are the only data source and they therefore may also be used for compliance control. Consequently, non-compliance with log completion and delivery should be treated as a serious breach of licence or fishing conditions.

8.2.2 Institutional framework

Fishery data collection programmes concern not only the agencies responsible for their implementation, but also various other major parties that, directly or indirectly, are involved in its operation or affected by its results and conclusions. Such parties may be the national statistical bureau, other national institutions, functional Non-Governmental Organisations, universities or the different private sectors of the fishing industry. The active participation of all possible stakeholders in the preparation and implementation phases of a data collection programme is fundamental. It provides opportunities for important aspects of data collection to be discussed by all stakeholders, and not just fishery administrators and managers. This will produce a better data collection system, which is integrated with the industry as opposed to an onerous system imposed by government.

8.2.3 Working practices

Current data collection systems will often need to be modified to meet new or revised objectives. The working practices of participants in the chain of data supply and processing (e.g. from enumerators to information technologists), some of which may have become established over many years, are likely to need changes. It is important, therefore, to undertake an analysis of current working practices and to develop programmes for working practice changes that are realistic and achievable within reasonable time-periods. It may be that the ideal situation cannot be achieved immediately, and changes may need to take a step-wise approach, again with a continued appraisal to ensure that the next steps are on track. The regular use of management analysis methods should provide information upon which further recommendations for change can be made, including:

· organisational structure (personnel and information flow);

· performance measures (days/hours worked on tasks, average task completion times);

· data recording and processing methods (the nature and accuracy of the audit trail);

· methods of filing and archiving;

· administration practices.

8.2.4 Budgets

Regularly conducted data collection programmes necessitate careful planning and the provision of human and financial resources to carry out the large variety of functions related to field operations, computerisation and data analysis (Table 8.1). For developing countries initial investment costs may at times be met through foreign technical assistance. Recurring costs nearly always have to be met by the national agency or fishery research institute responsible for implementing the fishery data collection programme, and should thus be planned for and budgeted on a long-term basis. Care must be taken in preparation of the preliminary budgets during the design phase to account for all investment and recurrent costs. Once the collection programme is up and running, the budget will probably have to be adjusted to ensure adequate resources are available to support the programme and meet its objectives.

Table 8.1 Examples of basic costs related to a fishery data collection programme

Initial investment

Recurring costs

Needs assessment, analysis of working practices

Salaries and travel allowances for data collectors, supervisors, encoders and support staff

Pilot system design costs

Acquisition of computing units and software

Support and maintenance costs for all equipment

Acquisition of transportation, vessels (if not chartered) etc.

Operational and maintenance costs

Acquisition of office equipment and materials for survey preparation

Dissemination of information and preparation of reports and publications

Training on all levels to initiate programme

Organising and running of workshops and training courses


8.3.1 Incentives
8.3.2 Training
8.3.3 Exchange of experiences with other countries
8.3.4 Technical committees
8.3.5 Data verification
8.3.6 Feedback
8.3.7 System appraisal

8.3.1 Incentives

To implement a data collection programme, a reasonable support must be obtained from the informants supplying the data (i.e. fishers, market middle person, factories, traders, consumers, institutions, etc.). There are several ways to achieve this:

· make informants aware about the objective and importance of data collection and its consequent uses (e.g. special publicity campaign, leaflet, meetings);

· provide continuous feed-back on the results from the data collection (see section 8.3.6);

· establish good relationships between enumerators and informants;

· give incentives for co-operation (e.g. free licenses, rewards);

· impose a penalty on those that do not co-operate (e.g. lower quota, suspension of licence, fines).

In general, data collection for scientific purposes should be separated from data collection for enforcement. The reason for this is to remove the incentive for fishers to bias sampling. Enforcement officers will tend to get less co-operation when trying to obtain data since fishers may feel threatened, or may have broken regulations which they will try to hide. For instance, size frequency sampling, where fishers hide fish below the minimum size, will bias the data. Such biased data may result in management decisions that damage the fishery much more than simply catching undersized fish. Data collection needs to concentrate on what is really happening in the fishery, not what is supposed to be happening.

8.3.2 Training

Training is one of the most crucial components in the preparation and successful implementation of data collection programmes, and must always be given high priority.

Adequate training and supervision of staff involved in monitoring are essential if the data collected are to be valid. Data collectors are frequently junior in organisational hierarchies and are rewarded accordingly. However, they are also expected to work in remote areas or as the sole observers aboard ships, often with no contact with their supervisors or colleagues for lengthy periods. It is important that care is taken in identifying appropriate staff that are prepared with adequate training. Every effort should be made to maintain morale and an awareness of the role of their task in the broader fisheries context. Supervisory staff should make regular site visits to maintain data quality, and regular in-service training sessions should be held.

In general, training courses and workshops should target a representative number of national staff involved in the preparatory and operational phases of a programme, and should thus be an on-going activity. Participants should include fishers, data collectors, supervisors, researchers, computer operators, other decision-makers, data sources and users.

National workshops are a good means for addressing methodological and operational problems encountered during the implementation phase. They provide the opportunity for bringing together staff with different responsibilities and activities, such as data collectors and supervisors, information system operators, statisticians and researchers. In addition, periodic dialogue meetings should be arranged with all those participating in or contributing to a data collection programme. This way, adequate transfer and dispersal of information will be assured and the problems that may have occurred in the interim period will be addressed.

Data collectors and supervisors are the backbone of a data collection system since they are in direct contact with the fishers and have first-hand experience regarding field operations. Their participation will make them feel they are part of the entire survey programme and will greatly assist in the identification of problem areas related to data collection operations.

Participation of information system operators is also important since their observations regarding inputting and data storage operations may bring out suggestions for improving the format of source forms and their compilation by the data collectors.

Statisticians and researchers can explain basic statistical aspects, train junior staff in data collection and sampling approaches, verify the utility of the statistics and discuss improvements in data dissemination and analysis.

National workshops of this nature ideally take place over a period of 20-25 days, and should be organised at the end of a full year cycle. An example of a workshop schedule, contents and participation is given in Table 8.2.

Table 8.2 Example of a schedule for a National Workshop.




Day 1 - Day 3

Basic sampling theory, statistical concepts and exercises.

Statisticians, researchers and other users

Day 4 - Day 13

Compilation of data to be used as case studies. Editing of collected information. Guidelines for general format and structure of data collection forms. Discussions on field activities and data collection problems.

Data collectors, researchers and statisticians

Day 14 - Day 19

Using a computer system operating with databases of reference tables, frame survey data and samples of landings and boat/gear activities. Computation of estimates and variances. Exercises and case studies with actual data from pilot or full-scale surveys.

Statisticians, information system operators and researchers

Day 20 - Day 25

Reporting techniques. Exercises and case studies with actual data from pilot surveys.

Statisticians, researchers, other users and information system operators

8.3.3 Exchange of experiences with other countries

Irrespective of differences in type and size of fishing industries, fishery data collection programmes are generally based on certain basic and commonly accepted methodological and operational foundation. They often utilise standardised data collection schemes and computer software. It may thus be of interest for a country in the process of initiating or enhancing a fishery data collection programme, to benefit from the experience and knowledge of other countries that have already made good progress.

Such exchange of expertise can be facilitated by:

· regional workshops and expert consultations;
· study tours;
· continuous exchange of information;
· documentation, including annual reports, manuals, forms etc.

8.3.4 Technical committees

Standing committees on fishery statistics (e.g. for stock assessment or statistical standardisation) can play a key role in the co-ordination of data collection programmes. They are particularly useful where different agencies or institutions are involved in various components of an overall survey system. Their terms of reference may include:

· set-up priorities and provide advice related to statistical development activities;

· provide a forum for consultations and co-ordination regarding progress evaluation, performance and diagnostics;

· use feedback information from National Workshops for the preparation of reports with findings, conclusions and recommendations;

· advise on corrective actions if and when needed;

· provide recommendations on staff and other resource needs.

Technical Committees should meet on a regular basis and their composition and level of authority should allow submission of their recommendations to higher government authorities for consideration and action.

Additional permanent working groups can be established:

· to discuss the relevance of the output in relation to objectives;
· to standardise the way measurements are made;
· to set up utilities.

8.3.5 Data verification8

8 Extracted from section 2.1.2 of FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries. No. 4. Fisheries Management. Rome, FAO. 1997. 82 pp.
The verification of data is essential to ensure that data are accurate, complete and give a true indication of the state or value of the factors under consideration. The problems associated with the collection of fisheries data mean that the risks of collecting erroneous or inappropriate data are very high without careful and statistically valid design and monitoring.

Different types of data will need to be verified in different ways. Some examples of methods to verify data include:

· checking logbooks against landings data (e.g. sales notes);

· sampling catches for species or grade composition;

· comparing landings statistics with certificates of origin, trade and commodity production statistics (e.g. processed fish) and similar sources of information;

· inspecting data collection methods by statistical staff;

· interviews with fishers;

· observer schemes or inspections;

· reporting from sea on retained catch on entering and leaving the fishing zones;

· using vessel monitoring systems, such as transponders, to monitor the position, catch and activities of vessels;

· instituting airborne and shipboard surveillance, together with the boarding of vessels.

In cases where fishery-independent data, such as stock abundance indices from research surveys, are available, it is possible to use these as an independent check on CPUE indices based on commercial fishery catch and effort data. In cases of suspected serious misreporting of catches, it is even possible to use such fishery-independent data to obtain estimates of the commercial catches.9
9 Such a procedure has been used in some analyses undertaken by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and an account was presented to the Co-ordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics at its Seventeenth Session (FAO Fisheries Report No. 555, paragraph 91).
At the macro-level (typically national), food balance sheets can be used as an overall check of the consistency between production, utilisation, trade and consumption statistics. For such an exercise, it is necessary to convert all figures into live-weight equivalent units using appropriate conversion factors. Total fish production from capture fisheries and aquaculture, less quantities used for non-food purposes (e.g. fishmeal production) plus imports minus exports should correspond to the domestic food fish supply. It is usually expressed in per capita terms by dividing by the population size. The average per capita fish supply can then be compared with fish consumption estimates derived from food surveys. Large deviations from food survey results or large fluctuations from year to year suggest that there are problems with some of the statistics used in the calculations.

8.3.6 Feedback

Since data collection is a co-operative effort, all parties involved should receive some benefit from the data gathering, analysis and dissemination programme. This is to ensure the continuing co-operation between primary data sources (informants) and data collectors. Providing valuable feedback to fishers on changes and trends in their performance should promote this co-operation. On the other hand, disregarding the importance of feedback would severely constrain the co-operation with informants becoming suspicious about the outcome of the analysis and the dissemination of the information.

In general, feedback from informants and data users should always be encouraged in order to ensure that the information system responds to the needs of all parties, as effectively as possible.

If the feedback mechanism recognises inadequacies in the data collection system, these should be addressed immediately and monitored. Consequently, the system should always be sufficiently flexible to allow for periodic adjustments, in particular, when the target fishery is dynamic and subject to change.

8.3.7 System appraisal

The establishment or development of a data collection system should be the subject of continuous appraisal to ensure that it is meeting its desired objectives. This is critical if the system is to function efficiently and be sustainable on a long-term basis. The system needs to be continuously scrutinised by the operators and users to resolve any problems that may occur in the data trail. Consequently, resources should be allocated in the annual budget to resolve the problems that are inevitably going to occur. No system is perfect and it is not until the programme has been up and running for some time that all the major obstacles will be overcome.

Particular attention should be given to reviewing whether the system provides the necessary output to meet the management objectives and support for the fisheries policy. The links between the management objectives, the indicators chosen and the data collected should be clarified and established (if missing), following the rational process described in these guidelines.

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