NOAA Fisheries has announced an effort to simplify accessing information from recreational anglers. Being tested in South Atlantic waters during the early November, 2017, red snapper mini-seasons, the new pilot program can be accessed from smart phones, allow anglers to record information about their fishing trips.
This comes as welcome news to most anglers, many of whom have pointed to problems with some species being over-protected and others not receiving enough protection date back decades, based on what they say is insufficient or inaccurate data. NOAA hopes this effort will prove a step in the right direction, making it easier for scientists to gain information that could lead to better regulations when it comes to opening and closing of seasons as well as bag limits.
Out of 256 planned fishing trips recorded through the portal after November 14th, 77 percent of those trips were canceled and 23 percent were completed.
MyFishCount.com allows anglers to log in information about their catch as well as schedule or cancel trips ahead of time. Details such as length, catch location, hook type used, hooking location, whether fish kept or released, release method, and reason for release can all be documented in the program.
Current scrutiny of the harvest of certain species could be the driving force for participation amongst recreational anglers and it’s no surprise to anglers that the red snapper is the first fish on the list to test this program. Anglers have been declaring red snapper populations as healthy for some time, but their efforts to make this point with officials had little impact without such hard data.
This attempt in modernizing data collection could provide meaningful collaboration between anglers and officials. Fishery managers giving anglers a more accessible and consistent way to record their catches while out on the water can open the door for improvement in regulations. Getting participation from anglers is only half the battle though; once information is collected, fishery managers will then have to take that information and put it to good use.
“We don’t know at this time exactly how data from this pilot project may be used,” says Chip Collier, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council staff member supervising the pilot program. “Right now, we are learning from fishermen using the program, and with their help we hope to make this type of reporting platform a potential data stream for future use in fisheries management.”