Wednesday, 15 March 2017 11:33

International Fisheries Expert Wraps Up Assignment on Data Usage Featured

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Dr. Einar Hjörleifsson, visiting data expert from the United Nations University –Fisheries Training Programme (UNU-FTP), Iceland, finished his short-term assignment on fisheries data usage on 3 March 2017. During his wrap-up meeting with the CRFM Secretariat, continued support through CRFM’s partnership with the UNU-FTP was discussed. Summarizing his observations and recommendations, Dr. Hjörleifsson said that “There are already a lot of fisheries data collected by CRFM countries, although one could always ask for more. The approach I took in this short assignment was to attempt to lay a foundation for use of commonly collected data and applying the R software. The R software has already been endorsed by the CRFM scientific working groups, and once the basics of the software is mastered, it opens up new ways to efficiently explore, visualize and summarize fisheries data. R has a steep learning curve, but after the basics are mastered, R opens up myriads of doors for users to analyze other types of data, such as biological, socio-economic and VMS data with only a few additional technical skills”.

While the wrap-up meeting recognized that data management remained an area of continuing weakness for CRFM countries, CRFM’s Deputy Executive Director, Susan Singh-Renton, pointed out that “We identified sensible approaches to support continued capacity building for CRFM’s fisheries data experts, taking into account working conditions and constraints experienced both at the national and CRFM regional levels.” She explained further that “Specifically, the solutions identified as having the most potential for success were: establishing a pool of national experts who could work regionally also, as needed; accommodating for at least two main user preferences in terms of software packages for data analysis, i.e. R and Excel; and, using the CRFM Dgroup space for peer networking

Additionally, during the 2-month visit, Dr. Hjörleifsson had developed a website ( for sharing advice, ideas and case studies on data usage to satisfy CRFM fisheries reporting and management needs, with a special focus on using R, which is free, available online statistical and computing software. This website is expected to be maintained for a while, and especially if CRFM data users find it helpful and are also willing to contribute further to its development as part of our learning process.

In February, Dr. Hjörleifsson also visited Suriname and Dominica, where, in close collaboration with two identified national fisheries data experts, Mr. Mario Yspol (Suriname) and Mr. Derrick Theophille (Dominica), he studied the specific operational situations in these two countries. In reflecting on the Suriname visit, Mr. Yspol said that “Dr. Hjörleifsson examined the systems and procedures for data entry and analysis. We also looked at data that were being gathered but not being analysed, such as vms data. The visit was very short but Dr. Hjörleifsson was able to demonstrate another way of doing things, using the tools of the R software. Since Dr. Hjörleifsson’s visit, I have found the R software and tools to be very effective for improving the quality of data analysis outputs. After a review of the basics of R, the whole system seems so logical and clear. Now it is a question of practice.”  

In the case of Dominica, Mr. Theophille noted that “Dr. Hjorleifsson's visit, while brief, was useful for assessing already progressing R-based projects, such as the national fisheries statistics report that I am tailoring to run automatically when needed. I've since begun revision of the methodology and source code after Dr. Hjorleifsson's input. Mr. Theophille then went on to point out that “Dominica is primed to utilize R at an even greater level than before, making data analysis easier and reporting more reproducible. A number of R projects are already underway locally and soon it is hoped these products may be shared with the region.”

The country missions, as well as consultations with national fisheries data experts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, helped greatly to provide Dr. Hjörleifsson with insight concerning country-level challenges and good practices as well, and these were considered carefully in the wrap-up meeting discussions. Dr. Hjörleifsson’s written report of his assignment will become available to the UNU-FTP and the CRFM by the end of March 2017.

Photo Caption: “Mr. Shamal Connell (left) from the Fisheries Division in St. Vincent and the Grenadines seen explaining fishing operations to Dr. Einar Hjörleifsson (right)  at Barrouallie landing site on the west coast of St. Vincent.” 


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