FBGA members team up with The Nature Conservancy to test new technology using an App on the iPad

Once unlikely partners, both fishermen and members of the environmental community are now working together toward a healthy and robust ocean and vibrant fishery for generations to come.

For decades, fishermen have tracked their locations of where successful fishing has occurred and where poor conditions exist – either from rocky terrain, sensitive habitat, or unwanted encounters with week stock. The “honey-holes” are some of the most closely guarded family secrets only to be passed on from one generation to the next. But what about the areas to be avoided? A handful of fishermen in California, including four from Noyo Harbor are working with scientists from The Nature Conservancy to answer that question. Together, they have been able to create geographically-specific fishing plans that depict areas to avoid, and using an iPad application called eCatch, share that information with other like-minded fishermen.

Capturing and sharing spatially explicit fisheries data is key to the success of the modern fishermen.

They need to know almost immediately if their counterparts have encountered weaker stocks, such as Canary Rockfish or Yellow Eye Rockfish in order to reduce the risk of additional encounters in the same or other regions. Using eCatch, fishermen are able to map the location and amount of overfished species and manage their fishery themselves at near real-time.

The eCatch (www.ecatch.org) application was developed by The Nature Conservancy. eCatch allows fishermen to easily capture logbook information using an iPad, visualize and query catch data on web-based maps, and share spatial data with others if it makes sense to do so. The eCatch logbook records fishing event locations with latitude and longitude and records estimates of catch at each location. This technology reduces the cost of data entry and enables the rapid sharing of fisheries information. On its fourth consecutive year using eCatch, fishermen have access to a spatial library of valuable fisheries data that is used to update and adapt regional fishing plans, inform industry and stakeholders about environmental and economic gains in the fishery.

eCatch was recently upgraded to a version 2.0, which enhanced the tool’s online mapping interface and provided more efficient information management for collective fishing arrangements. Version 2.0 also included a fully documented application programming interface (API) that will create the opportunity for eCatch users to securely expose fishing data captured and stored within eCatch to outside programs. Fishermen are mailing hand-written logs into the federal fisheries agency – an antiquated system by today’s standards.

eCatch V.2.0 stands ready to bring fishing data reporting into the 21st century, and when that time comes, FGBA members will be there to help usher it in.

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