05/26/20 – SAFMC News Release: Historic Dock Photos May Lead to Better Fisheries Management in the Future


May 26, 2020
(PDF - click here)

Kim Iverson/843-571-4366/kim.iverson@safmc.net

Historic Dock Photos May Lead to Better Fisheries Management in the Future

Council launches new FISHstory Citizen Science Pilot Project


There’s something special about old saltwater fishing photos from the coastal United States. Steeped in nostalgia and Americana, each photo tells a unique fishing story. Now, fishery managers are hopeful that they can reveal more.


That is the intent of FISHstory (pronounced like history), the new Citizen Science project launched today by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Participants in the pilot project can step back in time to the docks of Daytona Beach from the 1940s to the 70s, getting a unique look at images captured from the for-hire fleet. The FISHstory project will train volunteers to identify and count fish from more than 1,300 historic photos. Data collected will help fishery managers build a more complete picture of for-hire fisheries prior to the beginning of dedicated catch monitoring programs.


Knowing the species, number, and size of fish caught over time is crucial in understanding the health of a fish population, including estimates of stock productivity. However, in the South Atlantic there is little information available from the charter and headboat fleets prior to the 1970s. Historic dock photos, an untapped source of this important biological data, could help fill the gaps.


“We are very excited with the launch of FISHstory as part of the Council’s Citizen Science Program,” explained Mel Bell, Council Vice Chair and Chair of the Citizen Science Committee. “A great deal of teamwork has gone into the development and implementation of this pilot project,” said Bell. “We are especially grateful to Rusty Hudson for sharing his historic photos and hope to expand the project over time to include photos from additional sources. This is a unique opportunity and we encourage people to sign up now to participate.”


Using Zooniverse, a popular crowdsourcing platform that hosts citizen science projects from around the world, volunteers for FISHstory will look at photos and use marking tools to identify and count the fish and people. Tutorial and training materials are available, so even people who are unfamiliar with fish identification can help collect data. The project is also developing and testing a methodology to estimate fish lengths outside of the crowdsourcing platform. The method will be tested on King Mackerel and may be adapted to determine the lengths of other species if successful.


Rusty Hudson, a long-time Florida fisherman who currently serves on the Council’s Snapper Grouper and Mackerel Cobia Advisory Panels, provided the historic photos from his family’s headboat fishing fleet.


The photos represent over 40 years of family and fishing history and hold valuable information on the region’s fisheries. If the pilot project is successful, it could be expanded in the future to other fishing fleets throughout the region.


Become a citizen scientist and test your fish identification knowledge, starting today! Create your own Zooniverse account and take part in FISHstory. To get involved visit https://safmc.net/safmc-fishstory/ or contact Allie Iberle, Project Coordinator at allie.iberle@safmc.net or Julia Byrd, Citizen Science Program Manager at julia.byrd@safmc.net


Photo Credits: Rusty Hudson