Chapter 1: Conducting Fisheries Investigations
Alexander V. Zale, Trent M. Sutton, and Donna L. Parrish
Fisheries biologists collect and process samples and data about aquatic biota, habitats, and stakeholders to answer questions, solve problems, and make management decisions. A sample is a subset of a population of objects, organisms, or people; we sample because populations are almost always too large to census completely. This book is about collecting and processing such samples and data—this chapter is an overview of the sampling process and provides specific guidance on the preparatory activities preceding sampling that increase the likelihood of success. Sampling without proper preparation and a comprehensive understanding of the prerequisite steps and procedures prior to the onset of sampling usually results in inefficient sampling and inappropriate, inadequate, or insufficient data to answer the research questions.
Researchers and biologists typically focus on enhancing their scientific or management competence (Loehle 2010), but success in conducting fisheries investigations also requires planning and organizing the logistics of data collection and analyses, processing tedious paperwork, and managing people and budgets, often in the context of public sector bureaucracies. Moreover, fisheries science and management are complex and multidisciplinary—our work extends beyond biology into physics, chemistry, earth science, engineering, sociology, economics, and politics (Jacobson and McDuff 1998; Muir and Schwartz 2009). Fisheries science and management are not rocket science; they’re a lot more complicated (some liken the fisheries profession to forestry, except you do it blindfolded, and the trees keep moving). Extensive planning and preparation are necessary to cope with this complexity.