I saw an interesting Providence Journal story about how roughly a dozen New England lobstermen are participating in a collaborative research program. They’re using tablet computers and digital calipers to record data about the bugs they harvest for a lobster survey being coordinated by the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation, a Kingston, R.I.-based non-profit group. Started by fishermen in 2004, the foundation promotes a collaborative approach to fisheries research that involves harvesters.
We take a look at some other collaborative research efforts in our October issue. For starters, on page 19 in our Around the Coasts section, our longtime field editor Larry Chowning writes about Chesapeake Bay programs in which participating watermen help track blue crab landings via mobile electronic devices.
In one of them, Maryland’s Blue Crab Industry Design Team, a commercial blue crab industry group, is partnering with the state’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Defense Fund to launch an electronic harvest monitoring program, as outlined in this video.
Then head to page 24, where you’ll find my story on the Northeast Monitoring and Assessment Program. I was fortunate enough to be able to tag along with skipper Jimmy Ruhle and the crew of the 90-foot Darana R plus a team of Virginia Institute of Marine Science researchers on the last day of the program’s spring 2013 nearshore trawl survey.
The fishermen make sure the fishing gear is set, towed and maintained properly; the scientists collect the data once the catch is brought aboard. Together, they aim to provide data on nearshore species that they believe will provide a more complete picture of the health of Mid-Atlantic and southern New England fish stocks. You can see the NEAMAP survey crew in action in our Web Extra: NEAMAP slideshow.
And check out NF Editor in Chief Jes Hathaway’s story on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System, aka MARACOOS. This wide-ranging program is dedicated to turning ocean information into useable products that can benefit fishermen and scientists alike. You’ll find her story on page 28.
The information gathered through collaborative research programs have the potential to improve the data managers use to regulate fisheries. But the programs are also helping harvesters and scientists gain a better understanding and respect for each other’s expertise. And that bodes well for the future of U.S. fisheries management.