Partnerships for a Common Purpose: Cooperative Fisheries Research and Management

Opportunities for Linking Cooperative Research and Management: Partners’ Needs and Interests

Gary L. Graham

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569858.ch33

Although cooperative research in the southeast has been ongoing for many years, it has not been as significant or formal as in other regions. This is primarily due to funding allocations that have been directed to the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic fisheries. Cooperative research has primarily been conducted through Sea Grant programs, through the Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation, and recently in NOAA Fisheries. If a valid commitment exists to expand formal cooperative research in the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic, a need exists to educate the entire fishing industry, both commercial and recreational sectors, to its implications and structure. The same concept of educating the industries should be applied to cooperative management. Comanagement, as practiced in other regions and foreign countries (i.e., New Zealand), is not understood by the majority of industry members. Educational efforts should be applied to expand this concept if genuine interest exists from management and scientific entities.

Linkage among collaborators is an important part of initiating successful cooperative research and management. Once a project has been defined, it is vitally important that both parties consider the research project to be important and have a clear understanding of the expectations of each other. It is my opinion that not every scientist or every fisherman is suitable for cooperative research. It is important, however, that those who are be linked up. This important coupling can take place through those knowledgeable with the fishing industry and the scientific community— nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), universities, regulatory agencies, and so forth. Gatekeepers should be identified and utilized. An example of linking expertise is reflected with a recent Sea Grant research project in Texas. Professors in the Oceanography Department were awarded a project to determine impacts of trawling in the bay system relative to suspension of bottom sediments and pollutants. A portion of this study was to determine potential damage of shrimp trawls to bottom habitat. Needless to say, there was some hesitancy by industry to collaborate in this investigation. After I conferred with an industry NGO and discussed the importance of utilizing typical gear versus gear utilized by scientists not familiar with trawls, fishermen volunteered to provide vessels and equipment to collaborate in the study. A meeting to discuss the investigations was conducted, which included the scientists and collaborating fishermen. Habitat and seabed conditions were agreed upon in addition to experimental design. Conclusions from the investigations indicated that episodic events (i.e., storms and cold fronts) impacted suspension of seabed sediments in the bay more than effects of trawling. This is only one example of proper linkage between industry and the research community.