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Fishermen, Researchers Explore New Technology to Cut Costs

Jan 2, 2015
Strengthening Coastal Communities

With the recent news from NOAA that Gulf of Maine cod is at 3 to 4 percent of its target levels, the importance of accurate monitoring of fishing activities has never been greater, and the industry has never been more cost sensitive. 

For the last two years, we have partnered with fishermen and other organizations—including The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Community Sector, and Ecotrust Canada—to develop a high-tech alternative to collecting this vital data through costly, on-board human observers. This year we expanded our study to include seven fishing vessels along the Maine coast. 

Federal regulations require fishermen to report key information, such as the amount of fish caught and discarded during each trip. While the data is important, the current method of monitoring its collection is through on-board human observers—costing up $800 per day. 

In the past, federal funding has covered these costs, but future budget cuts will likely make fishermen responsible for hiring the third-party observers. With many fishermen in the Gulf of Maine already operating on thin margins, this added cost would be yet another obstacle in an increasingly challenged industry. 

GMRI worked with Ecotrust Canada to retrofit each boat in the study with an open-source electronic monitoring control box and the essential data collection components—including digital cameras, GPS, hydraulic pressure sensors, and hard drives. We believe that this suite of technology may provide the industry with a more cost-efficient method of collecting the same high-quality data. 

This year’s study verified that the cameras effectively collect catch data. After the second year of data collection ends, Ecotrust Canada will present the results and publish a final public report that details the conclusions of our study. 

The report will explain how the system performed on each vessel, assess the quality of the data collected, and compare the new data to traditionally collected data from fishermen and on-board human observers.