Fish Radio
Halibut fishermen give feedback on observer program
November 23, 2016

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Fishermen give feedback on onboard observers. More after this –                                       observers

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To get better data on what’s coming over the rails, three years ago halibut managers expanded onboard observer coverage to include all Alaska longliners, no matter how small the boat. Lots of   analysis went into designing data collection methods for the observers, but not so much for the affected fishermen.

“I’m interested in understanding how to incorporate the knowledge fishermen have more directly into the science and the management decisions.”  

Elizabeth Figus is a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks studying in Juneau.

“While the North Pacific Council was responding to these issues by creating an electronic monitoring  work group I wanted to see if fishermen in Southeast Alaska all feel pretty much the same about this issue, if they have different opinions, as well as what kinds of things they were seeing out on the water.”

Last spring Figus interviewed nearly 80 halibut fishermen in Hoonah, Juneau, Petersburg and Sitka. Ages ranged from 27 to the 80s and fishing experience ranged from five to nearly 60 years.

“I was interested in understanding, first of all, is the observer program overall likely to document differences in the bycatch or the fish that aren’t halibut that come up on longline hooks and end up back in the water, are they likely to document new things that weren’t previously recorded, and how much support do fishermen have for human observers versus other kinds of data collection strategies out on the water. “

The fishermen were able to identify and account for halibut and bycatch species as well as the scientific data collectors, Figus found. She also asked them to rank preferences for how best to obtain fishery data.

“It turned out that they were pretty commonly and strongly in preference for the least intrusive data strategy. So human observers ranked the lowest of everything.  Going back to the way things were ranked the highest and then detailed logbooks and EMS were sort of in the middle. “

Figus is now traveling to other towns to get feedback from more halibut fishermen. She hopes to publish her findings next spring.

“My main interest in fisheries research has to do with understanding ways that the local knowledge of fishermen can be incorporated into management in order to inform the process and ultimately improve the process.”

Thanks to the audio assist from KMXT/Kodiak.

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.