New UK statistics authority web site

UK Statistics Authority

A new independent body to oversee the quality of UK quantitative statistical data publication was launched yesterday.

UK statistics authority

The UK Statistics Authority run by Sir Michael Scholar is outside of government control, (like Torchwood) being answerable directly to the elected Parliament, not to ministers or any single government department. The USA has a remit to restore public confidence in the neutrality of government statistics, an urgent task since a survey revealed that only one citizen in five actually believes them! A poll by the European Commission about public trust in 27 member countries’ government statistics ranked Britain 27th out of 27.

USA can issue and take away a “kite mark” of quality assurance to each of the 28 UK Goverment departments which issue statistics, and will also act as a central reference for the vast amount of data which gets published. The website at publishes a link to any new statistics which have been released daily at 9.30am, which is also available as an RSS feed

As another gesture towards open government, the USA will publish the minutes from their monthly meetings onto the website as well. Other plans for the website appear to include a new taxonomy and some kind of maps mashup.

What new figures are out today?

Today’s new stats include a tour of emergency services in Wales, Scottish manufactured exports for the last quarter of 2007 and a survey of construction industry materials but the one which caught my eye was a publication of UK Sea Fisheries Statistics for 2006.

United Kingdom Sea Fisheries Statistics

UK Sea Fisheries Statistics provides a compendium of statistics relating to the UK fishing industry. It includes information on the size of the UK fishing fleet, the number of fishermen, key economic indicators and the quantity and value of sea fish landings, imports and exports. Comparisons are made with the fishing industries in Europe and the rest of the world. The level of exploitation of the main European Union quota stocks is also considered.

Fishing stats

It’s interesting to me for example, to see how Newlyn in Cornwall compares with other large fishing ports but there’s also an overview of the world fishing industry

The world catch figures from marine fishing areas fell by 2 per cent from 85.5 million tonnes in 2004 to 83.7 million tonnes in 2005. In 2005 China caught the largest volume of fish, 14.7 million tonnes. Peru had the second largest annual catch at 9.3 million tonnes. The USA, Japan, Indonesia and Chile each caught between 4 and 5 million tonnes. Of the 83.7 million tonnes of fish caught in 2005, 63 per cent were caught in the Pacific Ocean, 26 per cent were caught in the Atlantic and 11 per cent in the Indian Ocean. Marine catches from the Pacific Ocean have shown a long-term gradual increase reaching a maximum of 53.6 million tonnes in 2000. Landings in 2005 were 52.5 million tonnes, a decrease of 1 per cent on 2004. In the Atlantic, the 2005 catch is 12 per cent lower than in 2001.

Here are some more tasty extracts:

In 2006, the UK fleet landed 21 thousand tonnes of cod (26 per cent of the 1996 level) and 40 thousand tonnes of haddock (44 per cent of the 1996 level). This represents a combined decrease of 109 thousand tonnes. Landings of the relatively low value blue whiting have increased over this period from 14 thousand tonnes to 82 thousand tonnes.

Herring landings by the UK fleet were higher than mackerel landings for the first time in over 10 years. Since 2002, mackerel landings have decreased by 49 per cent while herring landings have increased by 50 per cent.

In 2006, 41 thousand tonnes of nephrops were landed, a 35 per cent increase in two years. Landings of cockles fell to their lowest level for over 10 years.

This is all fascinating stuff but some of the vocabulary is unfamilar so I welcomed the opportunity to learn:

Nephrops are lobsters, langoustines, dublin bay prawns, scampi etc

What are Demersal Fisheries?

Demersal fisheries target species which live on the or near the seabed and feed on bottom-living organisms and other fish. Although fisheries may be directed towards particular species or species groups, demersal fish are often caught together and comprise a mixed demersal fishery.

In 2001 the total landings by the Scottish demersal fleet were in excess of 130,000 tonnes and had a first sale value of around £150 million. Cod (Gadus morhua), haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus), whiting (Merlangius merlangus) and monkfish (Lophius

What are Pelagic Fisheries?

Oily fish generally swim in the pelagic zones of the oceans.

So to the consumer or cook, roughly speaking demersal = “white fish” and pelagic = “oily fish”. The oily fish live in the deep cold waters (clue) and the demersals are more coastal, except that the continental shelf extends a lot further out from some coastlines than others. And the Mackerel do come in close to shore in large numbers at certain times, as witnesseMackerel dinnerd in Lekeitio recently:

Mackerel Boat

Back to the UK Statistics authority website, as you can see it has the potential to provide considerable distraction as well as having great educational and informative uses, quite possibly marketing and business use as well. Perhaps one day it will also be considered to set up an authority site for aggregating national qualitative data in a similar but appropriate way.

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