South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

Citizen Science

Citizen science is a growing field involving the public in scientific research. Trained members of the public collaborate and engage with scientists to collect information and data. Public participation advances science, research, and policy and fosters an informed and engaged citizenship.

The SAFMC Citizen Science Program

The Citizen Science Program

Fishermen in the South Atlantic region have consistently expressed a desire to become more involved in collecting data used to manage their fisheries. Adequate and timely data to support effective federal fisheries management is an ongoing challenge. Current data collection programs face limited resources, often leading to data gaps. As a result, the SAFMC developed the Citizen Science Program, the first in the nation. The program was built under the guidance of a wide array of stakeholders and partners and aims to build projects based on the Council’s research needs.

Program Contact


Advancing science and increasing trust, one project at a time.


To build and maintain a program that improves information for fisheries management through collaborative science.


Design, implement, and sustain a program framework to guide the development of projects that support fishery management decision-making. 

Facilitate the development of individual projects to address specific research priorities.

Ensure that data collected by projects are accessible, robust, and fit for purpose.

Foster mutual learning, collaboration, and program engagement. 

To meet these goals, the Program has developed Standard Operating Policies and Procedures (SOPPS) that outline the infrastructure and guiding principles needed to carry out the Program. Additionally, Citizen Science Action Teams compiled background information and resources for project development and program support.

To learn more about citizen science activities, check out the Program’s Annual Reports.

Interested in joining one of the Council’s citizen science advisory panels? Learn more about the opportunities through the Citizen Science Pool Application.

Citizen Science Research Priorities

To guide the Program’s projects, specific research priorities for citizen science are updated every two years. They help prioritize the Council’s many data needs and transform them into tangible ideas and projects. 

Citizen Science Project Idea Portal

Have an idea for a citizen science project? Share your idea using the Council’s Citizen Science Project Idea Portal! Your expertise could lead to the next citizen science project that fills key data gaps for South Atlantic fisheries. Ideas submitted through the tool will be reviewed by the Citizen Science Program twice a year in May and October. These ideas will be used to help update the Council’s citizen science research priorities which guide the projects developed and supported by the Program.

Our Projects

SAFMC Release

Make a difference in your snapper grouper fishery and help collect data on released fish! SAFMC Release empowers fishermen to provide details about released shallow water grouper and Red Snapper using an app called SciFish. Scientists can use this information to better understand which of these fish are being released, what size they are, and how many survive.


Historic fishing photos are helping unlock the history of South Atlantic fisheries! FISHstory uses historic photos to better understand the species and size of fish caught by for-hire fisheries before the start of dedicated catch monitoring programs. Volunteers help identify and count fish in historic photos. Scientists can use this information to document the beginnings of the South Atlantic for-hire fishery.

Two divers in the water wearing white shirts with the REEF logo on the upper arm. One holds a large underwater camera, the other holds a pad and pencil while showing the ‘hang loose’ hand signal.

SMILE Project

Size matters – especially when it comes to fisheries management! Traditionally, collecting fish length data requires having a fish in hand. This can be challenging, so the SMILE project is working with recreational divers to collect fish length data using innovative camera technology. Scientists and managers can use this information to inform stock assessments and ecosystem-based management efforts. Photo: Daryl Duda

Dolphin Wahoo Participatory Workshops

The Southeast Fisheries Science Center collaborated with the Council to hold a series of workshops to learn more about the Dolphin and Wahoo fisheries. Fishermen participants shared their knowledge and perspectives on these fisheries. Scientists and managers can use the information gathered to identify new research and analysis needs and make more informed management decisions. Photo: Dino Barone.

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