PHOTO GALLERY: The Science of Fishermen
The Fishermen’s Alliance values science, believing it essential to making good management decisions that protect fish and fishermen. But not all science is created equal; we believe that cooperative research involving scientists and fishermen, who know the ocean best, is the best.
We have known the value of fisheries research since our beginning, 30 years ago,and became involved it not long after, so we can’t share all our work in this photo gallery, but we can celebrate a few projects.
There is no particular rhyme or reason for singling out the cod tagging study in 2003, the cod mortality study in 2005, or the more recent halibut study, but it’s a start and we pledge to share more historic research work as the year rolls on.
There were a lot of people involved in the Northeast Regional Cod Tagging program from 2003 to 2005. We helped train the 175 fishermen, from 26 commercial fishing vessels, 13 charter boats, and 4 party boats, who tagged and released codfish using hook and line gear. The goal was to improve understanding of current cod distribution and movement patterns throughout the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank, Southern New England and coastal waters.
Working with regional partners, the goal was to tag 20,000 cod, but fishermen tagged more than 60,000.
Although a low portion of the tags were turned in, the study showed earlier studies may have underestimated the magnitude of seasonal movements of cod between US and Canadian waters .
Each of the partners had specific areas to concentrate on; boxes 1, 2 and 3 is where the Cape's cooperative research fleet spent much of its time.
The cod tagging study work wrapped up in 2005, but the learned experience carried over to other projects.
Although it took close to a decade, managers updated the assumed mortality rates for cod caught with longlines and hooks. The change was based on data the Fishermen's Alliance and fishermen collected on discarded, undersized cod.
The F/V Yellowbird was one of the boats involved in the project, which started in 2005. Now, instead of assuming that all the cod that are released overboard are dead, managers work with a correction figure based on the survival rate of the cod that were caught on hooks and then returned to the sea in cages to see how they fared.
In 2017, fishermen got hands-on training to collect biological samples from halibut, in hopes of creating a sustainable fishery. The goal of the project, led by The Nature Conservancy, was to drastically increase the region’s knowledge of halibut growth and reproduction. Over 240 halibut were sampled in less than two years by Cape Cod fishermen and the project data was provided to the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. In comparison, the center’s trawl surveys sampled just 43 halibut over four years.
Since fishermen are on the water almost everyday, and are better at catching fish than anyone, they have the opportunity to collect data over a larger area and length of time, making research more comprehensive and efficient.