Nov 25 2011

Rebuilding Fisheries: There’s an App for That

'iPhone' photo (c) 2008, William Hook - license:

Executive director, The Nature Conservancy – California

My daughter and I love to fish (on my iPhone). She’s 2; I’m a bit older, but we’re both excellent anglers (on my iPhone). Flick Fishing and Fishing Kings are our favorites. It’s no substitute for a father-daughter fishing trip, but there’s much less gear involved, and we never have to retie our lines. I’m keen on teaching her where her food comes from and never thinking fish comes from the grocery store. Catching things to eat is the world’s oldest profession, despite what they say about the other one. If you think about it, of everything we eat today, the only wild animals we still really hunt for food are fish.

The problem is that we’re getting too good at it.

That hunt is now going high tech in much bigger ways than my iPhone games. Off our California coast, environmentalists and fishermen have teamed up to use apps and iPads to not only find the right fish, but also to make sure we don’t catch them all. Keeping a stable population of fish healthy ensures there will be fish left to fish tomorrow. If you’re a commercial fisherman, you are required to record the number of fish you caught and where you caught them. Typically, you send all that data on hand-written logs into the federal fisheries agency and that’s the last you see of it. Enter eCatch, a new app developed by The Nature Conservancy and fishermen that lets them load their catch data at sea and have real time access to the latest information on where the fish are — the ones they want to catch and the ones they need to avoid.

Sharing information on what you caught and where is not the norm for fishermen. They tend to be the original rugged individualists and too often get caught in the race to catch more fish before the other guy does. The results of this have been bad for everyone: rapidly declining fish populations and fishermen going out of business. But a group of fishermen off our coast is trying to change the game by collaborating and sharing information.

Read the rest here.

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