Written by Linc Bedrosian
July 2, 2013
The value of collaborative research projects in which scientists and fishermen work together to collect fisheries data is becoming increasingly clear. And you need look no further than our August issue for a good example.
In 2012, Atlantic sturgeon was placed on the endangered species list. The listing threatened more than 40 East Coast fisheries.
Fast forward to today. Federal biologists now believe that there are thousands more Atlantic sturgeon than originally estimated. And they reached that conclusion thanks in no small part to a collaborative research project in which Mid-Atlantic fishermen helped capture, tag and release, and track sturgeon.
On page 20 in our August issue, our longtime Mid-Atlantic field editor Kirk Moore takes a look at the project. One of the fishermen involved in it, Kevin Wark, a gillnet captain out of Barnegat Light, N.J., is a 2012 NF Highliner Award winner. Kirk snapped this photo of Wark, who works on a sturgeon tracking team led by Delaware State University assistant professor Dewayne Fox.
The Delaware team sets nets in the spring in Delaware Bay from Wark's boat, the Dana Christine. Wark and the research team caught, tagged and released as many sturgeon as were once estimated to inhabit the region. And the tagging revealed that they never caught the same sturgeon twice.
The data they collected contributed to NOAA finding in its May 20 biological opinion that fishing gear and the lucrative monkfish fishery "could adversely affect, but is not likely to jeopardize" the sturgeon population. Survey results from another important collaborative research effort, the North East Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (aka NEAMAP) was also instrumental in revising the sturgeon population estimate upwards.
The now thriving Northeast scallop fishery has been the poster child for collaborative research, showing that when scientists and fishermen work together, they can collect high quality data that can greatly benefit fisheries.
Now the Northeast Fisheries Science Center wants to include yellowtail flounder fishermen in a new flatfish survey being conducted in August. Low population estimates for cod and yellowtail flounder, two key groundfish species, triggered massive quota cuts this year that have dealt a crippling blow to the groundfish fleet.
Survey results from two commercial fishing boats will augment those of the NOAA survey vessel the Henry B. Bigelow. If you'd like to participate in the survey, you have until Wednesday, July 3 to apply here.
The agency seeks a couple of fishing boats large enough to berth five fishermen and five scientists. Over a span of 12 days, the teams will work 24-hour days in shifts as they survey 75 bottom trawl stations on Georges Bank. They'll do it again in October — you can learn more about the fall survey by clicking on the above link.
That scientists and fishermen are increasingly working together — and respecting the knowledge and expertise each side brings to the table — bodes well for the industry's future.
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