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FMA Staff Participate in Fisheries Conference in Galway Ireland

Over 200 fishers and fisheries scientists from all over the world gathered in Galway, Ireland, in late August 2010 for a 4-day conference to consider the collection and interpretation of fishery-dependent data. Participants of the conference “Making the Most of Fisheries Information, Galway 2010” explored how fishery-dependent information and data can better contribute to fisheries resource assessments, management and policy-making, and how fishers themselves can add their vast experience and traditional knowledge into the processes.

Conveners of the conference included AFSC Deputy Director Bill Karp, NOAA Fisheries, Seattle, U..S.A; Norman Graham, Fisheries Science Services, Marine Institute, Galway, Ireland; Kjell Nedreaas, Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway; and Richard Grainger, Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy. NOAA Fisheries Chief Science Advisor Steven Murawski served as one of four keynote speakers.

Staff attending the conference from the FMA Division were Martin Loefflad, Patti Nelson, Craig Faunce, and Jennifer Cahalan. Loefflad and Nelson contributed a poster illustrating the scope of the North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program (NPGOP) highlighting the history, current operations, client needs, technological advances, and future issues.

Craig Faunce presented two posters and a talk. In the first poster, he and AFSC scientist Steven Barbeaux (Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management (REFM) Division) summarized two potential sources of bias present in observer data: the deployment effect and the observer effect. A deployment effect was evidenced by differences in the ratio of observed to unobserved trips within fisheries, and the observer effect was evidenced by differences in the total landed pounds of retained fish during trips conducted by vessels when observed compared to when they were not. The second poster, co-authored with AFSC scientists Sarah Gaichas (REFM), used the NPGOP as a case-study example of how fishery-dependent data can support ecosystem-based fishery management, in this case the food-web models of the REFM Division’s Resource Ecology and Ecosystems Modeling program. Faunce also presented a talk summarizing work done by FMA in the Gulf of Alaska rockfish fishery. Much of the data used in the catch accounting system for the proper debiting of quotas relies on landings reports from such facilities. The project demonstrated the feasibility and utility of observer samples as an audit tool to verify species’ identifications in industry reports. These works support ongoing efforts by the FMA Division to design and implement the newly restructured fee-based observer program.

Jennifer Cahalan collaborated with Jennifer Mondragon and Jason Gasper (NMFS Alaska Region Sustainable Fisheries Division) on two studies, both contributing to ongoing efforts to improve catch and bycatch estimation methods used in fisheries quota management in Alaska. The first investigated the role of the “nearest-neighbor” imputation method currently used to predict the species composition of the unsampled hauls. This imputation method was compared with a simple mean estimator and a ratio estimator in a simulation study using 2009 observer data and preliminary analysis showed it to perform relatively well. The second study provided case examples from the Alaska groundfish fisheries of competing the management needs and the practical constraints associated with calculating catch and bycatch estimates.

Cahalan also gave a poster presentation of a summary of sampling results from the 2009 North Pacific Groundfish Observer Program. An analysis of annual sampling efforts was provided for each of the major gear and vessel types highlighting the varied and difficult sampling situations faced by observers (see feature article in this issue).

The final book of abstracts and conference program can be found on the Marine Institue website. Full conference proceedings will be available soon.

By Patti Nelson

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