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Fisheries and Aquaculture
Fisheries and Aquaculture - Towards sustainable development of fishing and aquaculture activities
“Towards more reliable fish ageing techniques.”

The problem

Most of Europe’s fish stocks are assessed using age-based models for which the annual cost of ageing fish otoliths is several million euros. Uncertainty, however, surrounds the precision and the accuracy of ageing for 75% of stocks assessed by ICES and ageing errors influence the sustainability and socio-economics of the fisheries. An automated ageing system would contribute to improving ageing procedures and reduce costs of age-data acquisition. Although no such system is currently available, appropriate technology is readily accessible.

AFISA  An automatic age-reading system for fish otoliths


AFISA aims to develop an automated and robust systems for routine ageing of fish otoliths using pattern recognition or statistical inference. These systems will be evaluated for three species from several fish stocks:

  • Cod from Faeroes, North Sea and North East Artic
  • Plaice from the eastern English Channel and Iceland
  • Anchovy from the Bay of Biscay

The automated ageing systems will be tested against quality-controlled sample data and a cost-benefit analysis will be undertaken for comparison against current costs.

Contribution to policy development:

  • Age-based stock assessments are fundamental to the scientific advice underpinning the fish-stock conservation and management measures of the CFP.
  • Any reduction in uncertainty affecting fish-stock assessments increases the accuracy of scientific advice and the confidence with which policy decisions can be taken.
  • The increased reliability of assessments and management measures will contribute to long-term sustainability of stocks and reduced socio-economic uncertainty.

Project deliverables

  • Project programme, targets and schedule – July 2007
  • Annual progress reports – March 2008/2009
  • Cost-benefit analyses for cod, plaice and anchovy case studies – March 2009
  • Conclusions and policy implementation plan – March 2009


  • Rapid dissemination of progress and results through the established networks of European fishery laboratories – ongoing
  • Informal and formal presentations at workshops and conferences as opportunities arise – as needed
  • Reporting on findings in newsletters, the press and scientific peer-review journals – as needed

Technical information

Project acronym: AFISA
Project’s official full title: Automated FISh Ageing
Research priority: Modernisation and sustainability of fisheries, including aquaculture-based production systems
Specific webpage:
Proposal/contract no: 044132
Start date: April 2007
Kick off meeting: April 2007
Completion date: March 2009
European Commission scientific officer: Petter Fossum,

Name: Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer
Abbreviated name: IFREMER
Address: Technopôle Brest-Iroise - BP 70 - 29280 Plouzané
Country: France
Tel: +33 2 9822 4388
Fax: +33 2 9822 4653


Name: Fundacion AZTI-AZTI Fundazioa
Abbreviated name: AZTI
Country: Spain

Name: Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
Abbreviated name: CEFAS
Country: United Kingdom

Name: Danish Institute for Fisheries Research
Abbreviated name: DIFRES
Country: Denmark

Name: Institute of Marine Research
Abbreviated name: IMR
Country: Norway

Name: Marine Research Institute
Abbreviated name: MRI
Country: Iceland

Name: University Polytechnic of Catalonia
Abbreviated name: UPC
Country: Spain