Over 100 Alaska fishermen signed on for the Skipper Science program that lets them share what they are seeing out on the water.

The pilot program started in June and uses a simple free phone app for logging real time observations.

“Basically it worked and fishermen are very well equipped to be a really big part of the science and the research going on so we can best understand and manage our fisheries.”

Lindsey Bloom directs SalmonState’s Salmon Habitat Information Program (SHIP) which partnered with the St. Paul Island Tribal government to run the “citizen scientist” project.

A new report outlines the pilot project findings. It shows that nearly 1,700 fishermen also shared their views on ways a changing climate is affecting Alaska’s waters and habitats.  Sixty one percent said they are very or somewhat concerned about impacts to fisheries.

“There’s not a fisherman out on the water in Alaska who has not experienced really abruptly changing conditions as a result of a changing climate.  We have consistently heard that in terms of what people are feeling are the threats to their business and bottom lines– climate is consistently in the top two or three.”  

Bloom says it was very encouraging that 19 diverse industry members, such as processors and fishing groups, sponsored the project and helped get the word out. Skipper Science also has strong support from fishery managers.

 “Absolutely. We were strongly encouraged and supported by staff at NOAA and they are pretty enthusiastic about this and hopefully at the state as well.”

Bloom is hopeful that fishermen might eventually get paid to collect and provide data to managers. She says their local knowledge and experiences enhance the science provided by drones, satellites, ships and other data driven high tech devices.

“I think there are incredible efficiencies to be gained when you have all these small boats out on the water day in and day out, why not use them to measure and report on what’s happening.”

The Skipper Science Program will continue to provide voices often not heard by decision makers. See the initial report and sign on for next year at skipperscience.org.