Over the past decade, GMRI has collaborated with New England fishing industry members John Williamson and Mary Beth Tooley to deliver the Marine Resource Education Program (MREP) fisheries science and management workshops. As word of the program spread, applications arrived from far away places such as Texas, Maryland, and even Puerto Rico -- prompting an exploration of ways to meet this growing demand.
Initial program extensions were first piloted in the Mid-Atlantic as a natural extension of the New England program. As a second effort, MREP was recently extended into the Southeast region, complete with a new steering committee and locally tailored program. The new MREP Southeast serves three fishery management regions: the Gulf of Mexico, the South Atlantic, and the Caribbean.
To kick off the Southeast effort, GMRI convened a local steering committee consisting of a diverse group of industry stakeholders from around the region. After a planning and development phase, the group hosted an inaugural science workshop in April for 32 fishermen attendees at the Florida Fish & Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg. This was followed by a management workshop in Tampa in September. The fundamental approach for both workshops stayed true to the New England program's mantra "by fishermen for fishermen," and, according to fishermen reports, the workshops provided an opportunity for dialogue and knowledge exchange.
The science workshop featured a series of hands-on stations and a tour through the Florida Fish & Wildlife Research Institute, including an age and growth lab and a visit aboard research vessels. Discussion topics focused on species protections including barotrauma reduction, turtle excluder device (TED) compliance, and habitat restoration. When it came to the stock assessment process, fishermen were eager to take part in collaborative research discussions as a way to help build future datacollection.
The Management workshop, largely designed around a newly developed mock council scenario, allowed everyone to try their hand at decision-making and negotiations within the fishery management process. Council staff from the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Caribbean regions offered tips on participating effectively in the council forum and provided resources for fishermen to access ongoing council developments. The executive directors from each of the three councils concluded the workshop with presentations on current challenges and candid discussions with fishermen attendees.
Attendees at the inaugural MREP Southeast workshops noted the value of the networking opportunities and neutrality of the workshop forum. They expressed gratitude to fishing industry members Bob Gill and Duane Harris for their leadership throughout the development and implementation phases.
MREP Southeast will be offered again in 2014.
For more information on workshop dates and the application process, visit the MREP Southeast section.