Ocean Currents

How Technology is Helping Fishermen

© William Camarota

Greetings from New Orleans, where I’m excited to bring you some great news about the recreational fishery! After years of careful analysis and deliberation, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council embraced change and voted unanimously to bring the charter for-hire fishery—which is made up of vessels operated by professional fishermen who take paying customers out fishing—into the Digital Age.

Yesterday’s decision directs the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop an electronic logbook reporting system for the charter boat fleet in the Gulf. Electronic logbooks are devices—some no bigger than a smartphone—that charter captains use to record their day’s catch and send it directly to managers.

As a result, accurate tracking and monitoring of fish caught by charter boats will be captured in a fast and reliable way—improving the management of our nation’s fisheries.

Recreational fishing is a favorite past time for millions of people (myself included) and helps supports thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to coastal economies. Because of its importance, it is critical we make sure the resource is sustainable so our children and grandchildren have the same opportunity we have to enjoy it.

To make sure we’re managing fish responsibly, we need accurate data from all fishermen, commercial and recreational. But a lot of our monitoring methods still rely on paper and pencil methods. One of the best ways to improve our data is to start using more technology—which includes everything from global positioning devices to using the cellphones we all carry around. There’s always some resistance to change, but the Gulf Council has found a solution that everyone could agree upon.

A lot of this credit goes to the fishermen who helped pioneer, test and often times re-test electronic logbooks. For nearly a decade, charter captains have been asking for a way to give their data directly to fishery managers so they can review the fleet’s data on a timelier basis than is possible with current assessment methods. They stuck with this fight for many years, and now their hard work is going to pay off.

Ocean Conservancy has been working hard to support the greater use of this technology in recreational fishery monitoring. We believe electronic monitoring will improve the quality, quantity, and timeliness of data in the for-hire fishery. This is a really positive step towards getting better data, and we look forward to working with fishermen and managers in the Gulf to implement this new system.

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