Marine resources and the fish industry are significant parts of the Norwegian economy. They play a crucial role in the economic, social and cultural life of coastal districts, especially in the north. In 2004, Norway exported fish and fish products for 28.2 billion NOK. Moreover, it is a priority to maintain employment in many remote communities. Sustainable management of marine resources for current and future generations, including ecologically important non-commercial species, is therefore necessary. An extensive international effort is made to monitor catches and establish international quotas. Regulations have an immediate impact on fish industry and economic growth. The innovation aim in this sector is the design of new statistical tools for the management of fish resources.
Fishery is characterised by large quantities of data coming from a wide range of sources, on many different scales, and with differing precisions and uncertainty. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to conduct meaningful sampling on a suitable scale. At the same time, data are scarce due to the large sampling area. There is therefore a need for statistical methods that can deal with such data. At present, large amounts of data are ignored in stock estimation, because standard methods cannot easily include them. Combining research surveys with market sampling data is difficult. So is simultaneous modelling of several species. Fishing equipment catches more than one species, and this is not necessarily accounted for when setting quotas. Correct modelling requires simultaneous space-time models for several species. The key is better stochastic models for fish stocks and ecosystems. There is also a demand for improved data collection. Most current sampling schemes are inefficient, whether at sea, at the market or by research survey, and need urgent revisions. High-resolution sonar and satellite images are now available, requiring statistical integration of data from multiple sources. The design of efficient sampling schemes demands spatial and temporal modelling of multiple species, using all data types simultaneously.
The partner is the central actors in the Norwegian fish industry. The Institute of Marine Research (IMR) has statutory duties, such as reporting catch composition and an annual stock assessment. It runs systematic surveys and is the technical body for international quota assignments. IMR is a modern research organisation that regularly provides the authorities and society with ecosystem based advice. IMR has highly recognised researchers in fishery biology, including a smaller group of statisticians, who already have a long tradition for fruitful cooperation with external expertise.