"The reason we came to use InterCatch is pretty simple," Dr. Clara Ulrich, Senior Researcher at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Aqua) and active ICES scientist, explains. It was during her stint as stock coordinator in the Danish Laboratory (DIFRES, now DTU Aqua). "I changed in 2009 after years of mess when I had to hand the stock over and take it back over in between maternity leaves. It was basically impossible for me to track what people had done before – all information was lost."
Acknowledging the value of the tool, Ulrich's intention was to introduce it to the WGNSSK expert group upon assuming role of Chair in 2010. "When I took over the chairpersonship, I knew the tool was good." she continues. "One of the challenges of my tenure was that I wanted people to use it. So I said let's try for at least the small stocks in the Channel and Skagerrak, where there's not much data."
WGNSSK soon discovered the advantages of the web-based application. Created by ICES to ease data handling, standardize calculations, and remove errors, the greatest strength of InterCatch lies in the centralization of stock assessment data. National institutes can upload a range of data that can then be checked at any level; aggregated catch data output files are used as input for the assessment models.
One of the chief initial benefits of the application for Ulrich was detailed documentation, meaning she could return to work done years before – a feature handy for benchmarking. But there was more than that. "For the first time in our group, we had the chance to discuss in-depth the quality of catch data, what's behind them, and raising procedures," she says. "It has been an eye opener for a lot of people."
As with other ICES data tools, to keep up with the performance and functionality demanded by the working groups using, InterCatch was augmented and tweaked in 2013.
"We made a list of requirements," Ulrich describes. "The InterCatch team at ICES made a lot of improvements based on this, everything to make people have to click the mouse less as well as to quicken procedure so we could do data grouping."
"And so in 2013 it went more smoothly. Both because more functionality had been built in and because people were used to the system and were quicker in navigating it."
"Also, the fundamental change came with the push to conduct integrated assessments and move with mixed fisheries and multispecies, where we moved away from purely a single stock. We wanted to have one tool that could deliver to both data needs."
"The story of InterCatch for us is the combination of a lot of factors that arrived at the same time," Ulrich concludes. "I became chair, we needed to provide integrated advice, and then there was the mixed fisheries group (WGMIXFISH). Also, I really pushed for it because I knew what I wanted to do with it."