(NEWSLETTER - Winter 2019)
Folks like you will have the opportunity to get directly involved with data collection in the South Atlantic through a new project being launched under the Council’s Citizen Science Program. The project has been designed by fishermen and scientists to bring more data to the table to supplement existing fishery data collection programs and address the Council’s research needs.
Most fisheries data collection has been in place since the 1970's through fishery-dependent and fishery-independent surveys run by scientists working for NOAA Fisheries, state agency partners, and other agencies. Often these fishery-dependent data collection programs are part of mandatory reporting requirements for a fishery. However, citizen science data collection is conducted by volunteer citizen scientists and citizen science approaches have been around for decades in other fields of science, such as ornithology (documenting overwintering birds through counts), and entomology (tracking butterfly migrations). The citizen science projects being developed by the Council are using a co-created approach meaning that fishermen and scientists are working collaboratively to design projects that meets the goals and expectations of all partners involved.
Based on feedback received from fishermen over the last five years about the need for new types of data collection and better engagement with fishermen on the science used in management, the Council developed the Citizen Science Program. The Program is now implementing the necessary infrastructure to support robust projects that can deliver information for use in management and stock assessments.
The first project following this new approach to collecting fishery data in the South Atlantic will focus on collecting length information for released scamp grouper.
Fishery discards, one of the key challenges in the South Atlantic, was flagged as a top research priority that could use citizen science methods. A Project Planning Team made up of fishermen, researchers, agency scientists, mobile app developers, data managers, and citizen science experts collaborated to design a mobile app to collect details on released fish, including fish length and use of barotrauma reduction treatments.
Become a citizen scientist and participate in the project! You’ll be trained to use a mobile app called SAFMC Release to record data on scamp releases, information on when a fishing trip has no releases of scamp, and a few optional data elements related to fish condition.
Keep up with the Program at http://safmc.net/citizen-science-initiative/
The Citizen Science Corner will be a new feature column in each issue of our new e-newsletter. Stay tuned for information about the second citizen science project in the next issue of the South Atlantic Update!