South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

SAFMC Release

We’re currently looking for commercial, for-hire, and recreational fishermen to participate in SAFMC Release. Make your releases matter!

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.

The SAFMC Release project partners with commercial, for-hire, and recreational fishermen to collect information on released shallow water grouper and Red Snapper 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 and Red Snapper. 

Data 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 fish 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 could help inform assessments and management.

List of included species

The SAFMC Release project currently focuses on collecting information on released reef fish species. These species include Red Snapper and all shallow water grouper species.

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.

Get started

  1. Fill out this ONLINE FORM or contact Julia Byrd (julia.byrd@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.
  2. Download the free SciFish app from the Apple App store or Google play store and log in with your username and password.
  3. Watch the Demonstration Videos.
  4. Go fishing and start collecting data!

Training Tools and Resources

Data Collection Tips

  • Lengths of released fish are 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 and Red Snapper!
  • 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 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) for more information.

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

Best Fishing Practices

Learn more about best fishing practices for releasing fish.

Demonstration Videos

Starting an entry
Available data fields
Submitting a ‘No-release’

Data confidentiality

  • 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.

Data summaries

Check out the following report to learn more about the data logged through SAFMC Release!

A big thank you to all of the SAFMC Release participants for their valuable contributions to the project. With their help we are moving towards understanding more about our reef fish fisheries. 

Shore Thang Charters

Upcoming meetings

Program Contacts

Project Partners

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.