Scientific advice provided by ICES in November 1999 indicated that the quantity of mature cod currently present in the Irish Sea is at a historically low level and that the stock of cod is in serious risk of collapse. Regulations were introduced by the EC in 2000 to establish measures to aid cod stock recovery, which included the temporary closure of ICES Division VIIa. However, derogations to the Regulation under the conditions laid down in EC Regulation Proposal 2000/0292 (CNS) permitted a limited haddock fishery employing demersal otter trawls, semi-pelagic and separator trawls. The derogation included a number of conditions, in particular a requirement for the presence of observers on at least 50 fishing voyages.
MRAG Ltd was responsible for the deployment of observers on vessels fishing in ICES Division VIIa, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Northern Ireland (DARDNI) in line with the requirements of the derogation to the Council Regulation as discussed above.
In order for successful implementation of the EC Regulation Proposal, it was essential that MRAG Ltd consulted local Producer Organisations to establish appropriate channels of communication and protocols for the rapid deployment of observers, whilst ensuring minimum disruption to fishing operations.
Observers collected length frequency data for all cod landed, and relevant data relating to fishing operations. All observer data was submitted to DARDNI, within 36 hours of the observers return from a fishing voyage.