Partnerships for a Common Purpose: Cooperative Fisheries Research and Management

Cooperative Research: Needs and Interests

Clarence Pautzke

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569858.ch30

In helping to draft the science plan for the North Pacific Research Board in 2004, I wanted to include a section on cooperative research. I found that the best guides to the overall pros and cons of using cooperative research was the National Research Council (NRC) report titled Cooperative Research in the National Marine Fisheries Service, published in 2004, which is the basis for this discussion. I intend to talk also about cooperative management at the September 2005 American Fisheries Society conference, but this piece focuses on research.

I heartily agree with the NRC’s first finding in its report that most fisheries research projects would benefit from some level of cooperation with industry. Fishermen in general are very knowledgeable of fishing gear, fishing grounds, and fish behavior, and this knowledge can be incorporated in most forms of research and the formation of hypotheses to be tested. We also need to face the basic fact that funding for marine research is in short supply and ship time is expensive. Most fishermen clock a lot more days on the grounds than most researchers who have to pay for ship time and may only spend 5–10 d on a cruise each year.

Having sat through many hours of testimony at North Pacific Fishery Management Council meetings over 20 years, I have observed that there are many very sophisticated fishermen out there who closely observe the marine ecosystem they work in and often provide fisheries and marine mammalrelated data and analysis in their comments that rival the scientific information coming from the agencies. Indeed, commercial fishermen offer a significant opportunity to collect scientific information on the fisheries and marine ecosystem. They provide field experience, practical knowledge, and platforms for collection of data. They are expert at deploying their gear and have the knowledge to increase their efficiencies and lessen their impact on non-target fish stocks. Their expertise can be important in making sure that survey fishing gear is operated as efficiently as designed or that the geographic range of the survey is consistent with the geographic range of the fish. Use of fishing gear in research helps scientists better understand the impacts of that gear, not only on the fished population, but also on the surrounding habitat. It also allows intercalibration of gears used by scientists and fishermen.

In contrast, scientists are more likely to be the ones that can contribute experimental design, the scientific method, and data synthesis. By bringing together the knowledge and skills of these two groups, the quality, quantity, and relevance of research may be improved. Working together may help to build a better understanding between science and industry and greater confidence in the products of research and in the regulatory process. Cooperative research efforts must ensure the scientific integrity, practicality, and cost effectiveness of the experimental design and facilitate the ready application of the results to alter fishery management if the results suggest that such alteration is beneficial or required. Cost effectiveness, practicality, acceptability, and utility must be key design criteria.