Citizen Science: What you can do for better fisheries

Until now there has been little incentive for non-commercial fishermen to report their catch. We’ll take our boats out on the weekend, and come home with whatever ends up in the cooler. No need to fill out any paperwork.

But times are changing, and events taking place far from Hawaii will have an effect on fishermen here.

There could be a time when the opportunity to catch fish will be limited in order to conserve the resource. And decisions will have to be made on how the total amount of available fish is divided up. This is especially important for migratory, pelagic species such as various types of tuna and billfish that are sought by other countries fishing in the Pacific.

The most important thing to consider is that any decisions made by international, national and local fishery management agencies will be based on records of participation. Without a history of how many fish were caught, what a particular group of fishermen get will be based upon guesswork and someone’s assumptions.

The process of allocating percentages of fish, among commercial and non-commercial fishermen, is already taking place on the Mainland and Alaska. Because licensing and reporting have been well established there, governing agencies can come up with conservation measures that take into account past catch amounts. Percentages can be established that can more fairly support both commercial and non-commercial sectors.

But without catch information, fishery managers would have to guess. And fishermen without a record of participation could end up getting short-changed in the process.

The Lokahi app can help provide fishery managers with important catch and participation information especially from non-commercial fishers. The number of fish reported caught, whether they’re kept or released, is an indication of how healthy fish stocks can be out there. If a lot of fish are reported caught, it means there’s a lot of fish. We’ve all seen how a lot of fish come to the dock when the schools are big. When there’s fewer fish, fewer are brought in.

Aside from total numbers, the Lokahi app can also give managers an idea of how much time was spent catching them by recording the number of hours fished. That “catch per unit effort” information is another important clue when it comes to the abundance of fish.

While our local governments aren’t collecting this data yet, we fishermen can be proactive and jump start the process  by downloading the free Lokahi app and start logging in your catch information today. 

If you fish you have a stake in our resources and the responsibility to sustain these resources for future generations.  Register today to be part of the solution in keeping Hawaii’s fisheries healthy!