Symposium Summary: Cooperative Fisheries Research in Marine and Freshwater Systems: From Policy to Practice

Collaborative is the new cooperative: Chris McGuire from The Nature Conservancy (right) and Jeff Kneebone from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (left) working in collaboration with commercial fishermen to acoustically tag winter-spawning cod in the Gulf of Maine.

Collaborative is the new cooperative: Chris McGuire from The Nature Conservancy (right) and Jeff Kneebone from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (left) working in collaboration with commercial fishermen to acoustically tag winter-spawning cod in the Gulf of Maine.

Cooperative research between scientists and stakeholders is a time-tested model that has gained traction through emerging citizen science initiatives and formalized policy by fishery agencies. In addition to building overall trust in the management process, the inclusion of stakeholders in data collection and experimental design has the capacity to leverage limited funds and produce information that surpasses independent academic efforts. Stakeholders contribute an innate and historical knowledge of resource distribution and environmental patterns, and provide established infrastructure and a “boots on the ground” capacity to mobilize research programs. The scope of possibilities for cooperative research is huge and the processes are dynamic, but there are many commonalities across disciplines. This symposium invited speakers to review the successes (and challenges) of established case studies and discuss emerging cooperative research approaches from marine and freshwater fisheries. The call for papers grew into almost two days of talks and posters, spanning a wide spectrum of species (sea cucumbers to sharks), salinities (Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico), and success stories (cod in New England to trophy bass in Florida). A common thread throughout the symposium was that maximum impacts and successes were dependent upon stakeholders who could “champion” research efforts.  Speakers took the theme seriously, by talking about the process of cooperative research as much (or more) than simply results. The lively discussion and scope of continuing cooperative research initiatives has generated momentum to continue the symposium at AFS 147 in Tampa next year. We hope to see you there! Read the abstracts here.

—Angela Collins, University of Florida IFAS Extension/Florida Sea Grant, and Nick Trippel, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/Fish and Wildlife Research Institute