While fishermen, scientists, and regulators don’t always share the same language, their long-term goal is essentially the same – make use of fishery resources today in way that supports them being here tomorrow. Over the past decade, GMRI has collaborated on a fishing industry-led initiative to build greater understanding and trust among these groups through the Marine Resource Education Program (MREP).
This intensive training program immerses fishermen in the science and policy behind fisheries management, helping them understand the information, language, and processes that govern their industry. Equipped with this vital primer, fishermen can better engage in the regulatory process, ensuring that their valuable perspectives and insights are heard.
As word of the New England-based program spread, applications began rolling in from faraway places such as Texas, Maryland, and even Puerto Rico. GMRI and our partners first piloted program extensions in the Mid-Atlantic, and this year we launched MREP Southeast to serve the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean fisheries. To kick off the effort, we convened a local steering committee consisting of a diverse group of stakeholders from around the region. The group hosted their first science and managements workshops in April and September 2013.
The science workshop featured a series of hands-on stations, a tour through the Florida Fish & Wildlife Research Institute, and a visit aboard research vessels. Discussion topics focused on species protection including barotrauma reduction, turtle excluder device compliance, and habitat restoration.
The Management workshop, largely designed around a mock council scenario, allowed everyone to try their hand at decision-making and negotiations within the fishery management process. Council staff from the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean regions offered tips on participating effectively in the council forum and provided resources to engage with ongoing council developments.
MREP Southeast will be offered again in 2014. For more information on workshop dates and the application process, visit our MREP Southeast section.