After joining the Atlantic deep sea red crab fishery in 1995, Jon Williams and fellow harvesters began an eight-year quest to ultimately become the first Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fishery on the East coast. Scientific data was limited because the fishery was not actively targeted for harvesting prior to the 1990s. The fishermen were able to secure certification and have been innovative and proactive about improving information, but the fishery still lacks crucial fishery and abundance data. As a result, catch limits have been set conservatively.
GMRI Scientist Shelly Tallack recently launched a pilot study in collaboration with red crab fishermen to test an electronic monitoring system for recording catch and discard information during routine commercial trips. Williams is excited about the project's potential to enable sound management of the fishery.
"One of the conditions placed on the red crab industry by the MSC was to improve data collection and communication with regulators. This project meets that condition, and also has the potential to increase our efficiency."
With funding from the Northeast Consortium, Tallack is working with fishermen to customize OLFISH software for their data recording needs. Equipping vessels as electronic data collection platforms provides an opportunity for fishermen to lend their expertise to the scientific research process and improve stock assessments. This project builds upon Tallack's previous work with the fishery, which she began in 2002. Her last project addressed gear efficiency, aiming to catch fewer undersized red crab and still fish effectively.
Read a profile about Tallack's work in the journal Science.