U.S. GLOBEC round-table discussion with commercial fishermen

Ann Bucklin

During the U.S. GLOBEC Scientific Investigators' meeting in Durham, NH (September 8 - 16, 1998), an evening round-table discussion was held to explore common interests and goals between commercial fishermen and Georges Bank Study investigators. The commercial fishermen were: gill-netter Erik Anderson (President of the New Hampshire Commercial Fishermen's Association), draggerman Craig Pendleton (Executive Director of the North Atlantic Marine Alliance), and lobsterman Patten White (Executive Director of the Maine Lobstermen's Association). They were accompanied by Rollie Barnaby (Extension Educator for Maine/New Hampshire Sea Grant). Anderson and White are members of the New England Fishery Management Council and currently serve on the Maine/New Hampshire Sea Grant Policy Advisory Committee. Pendleton has participated in far-field measurements and sample collection in the Gulf of Maine for U.S. GLOBEC, funded by NOAA's Coastal Ocean Program. All three fishermen are very knowledgeable about research, and have participated directly in projects on oceanography, fisheries, and coastal processes.

The three-hour round-table discussion ranged widely over many topics, including: fish behavior in relation to ocean currents and bathymetry, fish recruitment, fishery management practices and their impacts on fishermen and the fishery, and the latest proposals for management of "Gulf of Maine cod". The fishermen were interested in U.S. GLOBEC efforts to model larval fish transport in the Gulf of Maine / Georges Bank region. These efforts may provide information relevant to the efficacy of areal closures in rebuilding fish stocks. The scientists were interested in the fishermen's historical views of fishing practices and catches on Georges Bank, especially in their descriptions of the locations of dense fish populations and the disappearance of very large cod from the catches.

Both the scientists and the fishermen enjoyed the animated discussion, which was followed by another hour of individual conversations and questions. The importance of discussions like this one cannot be overestimated. Oceanographers and commercial fishermen share a great deal, including extensive knowledge of the sea and its biological productivity. The different observational (and sampling) methods - and general perspectives - of the two groups make for fascinating discussions. Many more opportunities for open-ended discussions without agenda or specific objective are needed to explore all of the opportunities for building mutual respect, sharing expertise, and designing partnerships to work toward sustainable commercial fishing and fisheries.