SAFMC Release Project

Collecting more information on released fish is a priority research need for the Council. To help fill this data gap, the SAFMC Citizen Science Program developed the SAFMC Release Project. As a pilot, this project developed a mobile app and partnered commercial, for-hire, and recreational fishermen to collect information on released scamp grouper. A recent expansion allows fishermen to report releases of all shallow water grouper species. We applied for a grant to incorporate Red Snapper into the list of species in 2022.

The SAFMC Release Project is available through SciFish, a citizen science mobile application created by the ACCSP, SAFMC, NCDMF, and HarborLight Software. Fishermen can use this app to log information on released shallow water grouper – including the length of the released fish, depth of release, optional location, observed shark predation, and release treatment (e.g., use of a descending device or venting). Data collected can help us better understand which of the shallow water grouper are being released, what size they are, and how many survive.

 We’re currently looking for commercial, for-hire, and recreational fishermen to participate in this project!

To join the project,

 

DOWNLOAD the SciFish App

 

Download the App from the Apple Store

 

Download the App from the Google Play Store

 

Project Overview

Photo credit: Greg McFall

The SAFMC Release project partners with commercial, for-hire, and recreational fishermen to collect information on released shallow water grouper using the citizen science mobile app, SciFish.  It was developed in collaboration with fishermen, scientists, data and fishery managers, and technology experts through the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Citizen Science Program.  SAFMC Release initially collected information on Scamp Grouper, as a pilot, but has expanded to collect information on all shallow water grouper. 

Information collected through the project include length, depth of release, optional location, observations of shark predation, and use of barotrauma reduction techniques – like descending devices. These data can help us better understand which of these grouper are being released, what size they are, and how many survive.

As more fishermen participate and more data are gathered, the information collected through SAFMC Release will help supplement existing data sources and can help inform assessments and management.

 

Make your releases matter!

Photo Credit: Bryan Fluech

The number of released fish is increasing along the South Atlantic coast. While many traditional data collection efforts are able to sample kept fish back at the dock, it is more difficult for scientists to sample fish that are released on the water. Fishermen, like you, hold the key to this crucial, first-hand knowledge.

Data collected through the project can help us better understand which of these shallow water grouper are being released, what size they are, and how many survive.

The SAFMC Release Project within the SciFish app provides a tool for commercial, for-hire, and recreational fishermen to collect data on released shallow water grouper. 

 

The shallow water grouper complex contains 10 different species: Black, Gag, Yellowfin, Scamp, Yellowmouth, Red, Coney, Graysby, Red Hind, and Rock Hind.

Some of the shallow water grouper species can be tricky to identify. Check out the Shallow Water Grouper Species ID Guide  for photos and tips on how to identify these species.

We’re looking for commercial, for-hire, and recreational fishermen to participate in the SAFMC Release project. Follow the steps below to get started!

  • Step 1: Fill out this ONLINE FORM or contact Julia Byrd (julia.byrd@safmc.net) or Nick Smillie (nick.smillie@safmc.net) to set up an SAFMC Release account in the SciFish app. Once an account is set up, your login information will be emailed to you. If you already have an SAFMC Release account – you can log into SciFish with your existing username and password.

 

  • Step 2: Download the free SciFish app from the Apple App store or Google play store and log in with your username and password.

 

 

  • Step 4: Go fishing and start collecting data!

Demonstration Videos

Please click the link below for a video on how to start an entry on a released grouper by manually entering data.

Please click the link below for a video on how to submit a No Release Report when you go bottom fishing but do not release a grouper.

Please click the link below for a video on how to start an entry on a released grouper by selecting a photo from your phone's photo gallery.

Please click the link below for a video on how to start an entry on a released grouper by taking a photo with your phone's camera.

Shallow Water Grouper Species ID Guide

  • Check out this guide for tips on how to identify the shallow water grouper species.
  • If you have any doubt on the species, take a picture and send it to julia.byrd@safmc.net and include it in your SAFMC Release data entry.
  • Additionally, the Fish Rules app contains images and ID tips you can use while you’re on the water.

 

Transition from the SAFMC Release Standalone App to SciFish

  • Already a SAFMC Release participant? Check out this guide for steps on how to transition from the SAFMC Release stand alone app to the SAFMC Release project in the SciFish app.

 

Printable Form

  • Print this form to help record information on released shallow water grouper while you are out fishing. Data can then be entered into SAFMC Release using your individual account.

 

Data Collection Tips

  • Lengths of released fish will be one of the most useful pieces of information collected through the SAFMC Release Project for stock assessments. Please try to record length information on all released shallow water grouper!
  • Please record total length NOT fork length.  Length should be measured to the nearest inch.
  • Some of the shallow water grouper species can be tricky to identify. If you have any doubt on the species, take a picture and send it to julia.byrd@safmc.net and include it in your SAFMC Release data entry. The Fish Rules app contains images and ID tips you can use while you’re on the water.
  • Photos are an important part of the data collection process. Try to capture the whole fish from snout to tail in the photo. It can also be is helpful to have a fish on a measuring board or beside something of standard length (e.g. soda can) in the photos to help confirm reported lengths. If you don't have your phone ready to take a picture, it is better to release the fish quickly than to keep it on the deck of the boat while you get your camera ready.
  • If you don't release a shallow water grouper on a fishing trip, but catch and keep some - it is helpful to let us know by submitting a 'No Release' report. Share information on the species, size, depth of capture, and general fishing location information of the shallow water grouper you keep.
  • If you are offshore and out of cell range you will still be able to record and save data in the SAFMC Release Project in SciFish. Just remember to upload your data when you're back in cell range.
  • If you would like to help collect data but don't have access to a smartphone, you can use the printable form. Please contact Julia Byrd (julia.byrd@safmc.net) or Nick Smillie (nick.smillie@safmc.net) for more information.

 

Best Fishing Practices

 

Learn more about scamp and why it was chosen for the pilot project before the SAFMC Release Project expanded to other shallow water groupers:

Trip & Location Information

Individual data collected through SAFMC Release are confidential.

Information about your individual data will only be shared with science and management agencies to help inform fisheries management.

When described or presented in public settings, trip and fishing location information will be combined with that of other users. 

The SAFMC Release app was initially developed by Harbor Light Software with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts and Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program with the Citizen Science Association serving as a fiscal sponsor.

A planning and design team comprised of fishermen and representatives from the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, NC Sea Grant, Harbor Light software, Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program, Citizen Science Association, Cornell University, and SAFMC staff met to map out the initial mobile app design and layout. Additionally, the Citizen Science Action Teams developed supporting materials for the project.

Development of the SciFish app and the continued SAFMC Release Project expansion have been done in partnership with ACCSP, NCDMF, and Harbor Light Software.

The SAFMC Release Project would not be possible without the volunteer fishermen collecting data.

   

 

To learn more about the project or to set up a SAFMC Release Project  account in SciFish, please contact:

Julia Byrd, Citizen Science Program Manager
Julia.byrd@safmc.net
843-302-8439

Nick Smillie, Citizen Science Project Coordinator
Nick.smillie@safmc.net
843-302-8443