Fish Tank Forum Convenes Fishermen, Scientists, RegulatorsIn Strengthening Coastal Communities
Fishermen, scientists, and regulators assembled at our most recent Fish Tank meetings with one goal in mind – improving stock assessments. These assessments are crucial to the scientists studying fisheries, the regulators managing them, and the fishermen who depend on them to earn a living.
Our Fish Tank series provides an opportunity for these groups to discuss, strategize, and define the future of fishing in the Gulf of Maine, together. Throughout the past year, these stakeholders have assembled at meetings in ports across New England, from Maine to Rhode Island. GMRI organized and facilitated these meetings for both commercial and recreational fleets.
Stakeholders then gather at a culminating two-day workshop to recap and expand on the work done during earlier meetings. Participants aim to identify new research ideas, projects, and communications goals to aid the industry.
Debate over regulations and the reliability of assessments has long caused deep divisions between industry and scientists. Our Fish Tank series promotes a community-wide, informal dialogue to bridge that gap. Fishermen are usually limited to highly formal, abbreviated speaking opportunities – three or four minutes at a Council meeting, if they’re lucky. By contrast, fishermen who attend Fish Tank forums have wide-ranging, hours-long conversations about their concerns for the industry.
As scientists and fishermen gain common understanding, they can pursue common goals. Frequently, fishermen engage in collaborative research projects after participating in these types of meetings, playing an active role in the future of their industry.
One such collaboration arose from a meeting in Plymouth, MA. There, charter boat captains raised concerns about the methods used to track fish catch and discard in the charter-for-hire fishery. Shortly thereafter, research partners at GMRI joined Fish Tank participant Rich Antonino, owner of Black Rose Fishing, on-board to explore these concerns. As a result, GMRI has partnered with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to propose a collaborative project that will supply charter-for-hire captains with a mobile app to more accurately track their day’s catch.
It’s only through collaboration between all invested parties – scientists, regulators, and fishermen – that we can address these real-world problems. Our fisheries convening programs provide a neutral setting for this work, outside the regulatory process, which opens doors for the communication and understanding that makes this collaboration possible.