A collaborative effort of environmental, scientific, industry and tribal partners will involve an increasing number of commercial fishermen, who’ll share ecological observations on fisheries and oceans with researchers studying climate change.
The Skipper Science Partnership, now in its third year in Alaska, continues to attract more fishermen willing to provide feedback on their observations at sea.
In 2022, the second year of the project, more than 150 fishermen offered their opinions on climate change and feedback on their experiences with the program and the app via phone interviews.
“Our next phase will be to match fishermen in specific regions and fisheries with scientists and managers in those areas to collect data points that support specific projects ad research needs,” Lindsey Bloom, manager of Salmon State’s Salmon Habitat Information Program (SHIP), said.
“The amount of participation and interest from the industry, commercial fishing groups and fishermen was so positive,” Bloom continued. “We were blown away by the (number) of organizations and associations willing to endorse and support this project.”
“Skipper Science is providing a streamlined path for fisheries researchers to connect with fishers about the changes that they’re seeing on the water and share their knowledge with scientists in a highly collaborative and positive way, especially for the times and places that research boats can’t cover,” Kerim Aydin, a fishery biologist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, explained.
Lauren Divine, director of the ecosystem conservation office for the tribal government of St. Paul, Alaska, said the program is already a valuable resource for researchers, managers and policy makers.
“In concert with Alaska’s fishing fleets, we can meet the challenges of fishing and managing sustainable fisheries in a changing climate, ensuring commercial fishing economies remain strong for generations to come,” she said.
A key tool of the Skipper Science program is a mobile app that allows fishermen to log observations in real time from fishing grounds.
Highlights from the 2022 program include the partnership between the program and the fisheries science center to bring fishermen and scientists together in an annual workshop to discuss priority research in the Gulf of Alaska.
The program also partnered scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on targeted research focused on collecting cod stomach contents. The work with scientists to identify more specific research projects is expected to continue this year.
As noted in the 2022 season report on the partnership, Alaska communities and fisheries are disproportionately impacted by climate-related ecosystem changes, including ocean acidification, temperature variations, extreme weather and coastal hazards, not the least of which is coastal erosion.
Fishermen are now using the smartphone/tablet app to make observations year-round from Southeast, the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound, to Bristol Bay and points in between.