Jes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.
Friday, 15 July 2011
Collaborative research has changed the face of data in the fishing industry.
Many fisheries have benefited from revised assessments and improved survey techniques, and research programs (like the Virginia Institute of Marine Science's Chesapeake Bay derelict gear retrieval) have benefited from fishermen's knowledge of fishing grounds.
But a new project in the Gulf of Mexico signals an important shift in the application of collaborative research. After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, fishing has been somewhat status quo in the gulf. However, many fishermen have been waiting for the other shoe to drop.
That proverbial shoe may turn out to be the health of snapper and grouper populations. This summer, fishermen have been reporting higher than normal incidences of unexplained lesions on their catch.
In an effort to find some answers University of South Florida scientists are collaborating with fishermen to catch and examine fish from an 80,000-square-mile area.
What they find may not only tell us about the dangers of oil spills on certain commercial species (if that can indeed be traced as the source of the lesions), but also whether or not those fish are safe to eat regardless of physical markers.
The marine world is vast and mysterious. The more we can learn and document trends and anomalies, the closer we will get to effective fishery and ocean management.
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