Real World Applications for Track My Fish based Citizen Science

Fisheries Based Citizen Science

With a lot of "Citizen Science" products on the market, we keep to what we know best - solving real problems using both recreational and commercial fishers.

Our focus is on how do we better engage with fishers, reduce the costs of collecting good, actionable data and develop better stewardship among fishers over the longer term.

Here are some ways we have used Citizen Science - all supported by the Track My Fish framework.

Fish Tagging

Fish tagging is one of the front line tools for a whole range of fisheries issues both research and management. Citizen based tagging programs have proliferated over the past decade with fishers wanting to take a larger role in data collection. Our own involvement with Fish Tagging dates back 30 years and hundreds of projects. Volunteer based tagging programs need two things, a clear objective beyond generic growth and movement and quality data. We are here to help with objective setting, problem solving and keeping things on track.

Monitoring

Monitoring is a process by which catches are recorded for the purpose of checking the health of the fishery and measuring changes in stock abundance or composition. Typically this will be focused on certain species and look at variables like catch rates, size frequencies or age frequencies. Monitoring is a process we use at many sites, combining tagging and regular catch data to provide real time feedback on the status of the fishery. This is best done combining commercial and recreational fishers and where possible using high end recreational fishers. High end recreational fishers will catch more fish thus detect changes in the fishery much faster than ordinary fishers.

Recruitment (Coming Soon)

Recruitment (spawning success) is one of the most important variables to consider when looking at fish populations. For us, recruitment was a vital part of cracking the process of forecasting fish stocks for more than one species. Over the past 20 years we have perfected the process of using cast net surveys for many species especially in estuary environments. We have worked with statisticians to develop indexes that make sense of this data. While the sample methods may reflect local circumstances, citizen science does offer opportunities for fisheries scientists and managers to track juvenile fish. The benefit of involving fishers, is that fishers better understand the cycles of their fishery.

Tracking Climate Change or Pest Species

Climate change has already seen the movement of species out of their normal domains. With a thirty year dataset Infofish has been involved in several climate change projects. Fishers (recreational and commercial) are one of the best early warning devices for pest species and climate change as they often are the first to see a new species. Collectively they are often best placed to determine if this is a random catch or a change in abundance. We support both Crowdsourced and team based approaches to the problem of tracking climate change and most tracking will require a combination of the two. Crowdsourcing is great to get indications of change, where as teams of expert fishers are better placed to determine the scale of the problem.

Fish Health

Fish health is an emerging issue. Outbreaks of disease happen and when they happen in public waterways fishers and community want to know how best to handle them. We experienced this first hand in Gladstone (Central Queensland, Australia) where an outbreak of disease occurred in an area of high development putting fish health on the front page of the news papers for six months straight. An outbreak of white spot disease in prawns in the Logan River early in 2017 once again health issues became front page news for weeks on end. As with climate change and pest species, a two phase approach is best with options for fishers and other waterway users to report issues but using teams to ensure good data collection.

Fish Stocking

Fish Stocking often requires combination of processes. First there is the stocking records (location, numbers) where the recording of stocking events is important. Second is monitoring - tracking how the stock changes over times. In advanced sites we have been able to not only determine numbers of fish in an impoundment but also to model where the stocks will end up with different stocking regimes.

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