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1 Introduction CHARGE TO THE COMMITTEE AND REPORT OVERVIEW Overview and Definition Good fisheries management depends on acquiring high-quality infor- mation on an ongoing basis. These data provide the backbone of the sci- ence used in regulation. In the United States and around the world, the dominant method for obtaining such essential information has been through centralized, government-staffed research programs. While the data obtained from these programs have been of enormous value, the method is not always the most cost effective and often does not make use of the exten- sive experience of practicing fishermen. In addition to bringing industry and scientists together to engage in research of significant importance to fisheries management, there may be other side benefits resulting from co- operative research, including improved mutual understanding and trust between the cooperating partners. Recognition of the potential direct and indirect benefits of cooperative research has been rising. For example, in a report to Congress on the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is- sued in luly 2001, the National Academy of Public Administration recom- mended that: The NMFS Assistant Administrator, in collaboration with regional adminis- trators, substantially expand cooperative programs in the area of research, statistics, and dockside extension services to improve external relations.
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8 COOPERATIVE RESEAR CHIN THE NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE Whereas in the past, cooperative research was an ad hoc product of agency individuals and fishing groups working together, NMFS now has specific policies supporting and encouraging cooperative research (NMFS, 20011. There has been an increase in cooperative research activities in re- cent years, boosted by separate and substantial funding provided by Con- gress. The recent and likely continued increase in cooperative research activity motivated the current study. The committee was charged with iden- tifying and recommending key elements to meet programmatic objectives, to ensure scientific rigor, and to effectively design and implement coopera- tive research programs. The complete committee statement of task is pro- vided in Appendix A. It should be noted that in many ways this is not a typical National Research Council (NRC) report because few studies of cooperative research have appeared in the published literature and what has appeared have been the results of cooperative research projects, not an evaluation of cooperative research. The NRC was asked to address the statement of task using avail- able information. Because of the limited availability of published work, the committee had to rely on information provided through case studies, committee members' own experience, and testimony provided to the com- mittee to address some aspects of the statement of task. COOPERATIVE AND COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH The nature and level of cooperation can vary greatly among projects. At one end of the spectrum are projects with relatively low levels of coop- eration, such as NMFS chartering commercial vessels for surveys (in which the primary form of cooperation is commercial crews helping in the actual daily operation of the surveys) or fishermen keeping logs of fishing activi- ties. On the other end of the scale are cooperative research projects where fishermen and agency personnel work together in all phases of the project, including development of the research question design of the project, per- formance of research, analysis and interpretation of results, and communi- cation and dissemination of study findings. These types of projects are of- ten referred to as "collaborative research." SCIENTIFIC POTENTIAL OF COOPERATIVE RESEARCH A key element in managing the nation's fisheries is our understanding of the abundance and biology of fish in the ocean and how to reduce the
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INTRODUCTION 9 impact of fishing activities on fish and protected species. Some of this in- formation can be collected at the docks (as catch data), while the collection of other information requires going to sea and putting instruments, nets, or other sampling gear into the water. Fishermen are at sea every day as part of their normal work activity, and much of the impetus for cooperative re- search is to integrate the knowledge of fishermen into the scientific process used to regulate fisheries. For every day government research vessels spend on the water, commercial vessels operate for hundreds of days. Some of the traditional cooperative activities, such as logbooks, are designed to accu- mulate the information available from commercial activity. Commercial fishermen have other valuable skills and information gained through expe- rience that can also be brought to bear in the scientific process. Fishermen are experts at the use and modification of fishing gear to achieve specific objectives, such as increasing catch efficiency or avoiding nontarget species. As shown by the management directives stemming from studies such as the West Coast Groundfish Mesh Size Study and the Alaska Seabird Deterrent Study, the efficiency of the national fisheries manage- ment system can be enhanced if this expertise is used. Thus, it is not surprising that many research efforts investigating fishing gear design have been done cooperatively. As concerns about bycatch of nontarget fish, ma- rine mammals, and birds have increased, the demand for gear research has grown. Although fishermen often express frustration that fish surveys include areas where they know few fish are to be found, research surveys are not designed to catch fish efficiently but rather to catch them in a well-speci- fied, repeatable fashion that will provide an index of the trends in abun- dance over time. Scientific surveys are often designed so that there is more sampling effort in areas of higher fish density, but some effort needs to occur in low-density areas. Scientists bring to the process rigor in experi- mental design and the ability to synthesize large-scale data that are not available to individual fishermen. While most research surveys around the world are designed and conducted by national fisheries agencies with little or no cooperation from fishermen, recent experience on both coasts of the United States has shown that the expertise of fishermen can be important in making sure that the survey fishing gear is operated as efficiently as designed or that the geographic range of the survey is consistent with the geographic range of the fish. Data from research surveys form the core of most U.S. fisheries stock assessments, and general broad-based surveys have been in place for 20
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10 COOPERATIVE RESEAR CHIN THE NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE years or more over much of U.S. waters. However, as regulatory demands for information require greater precision, there is a growing need for addi- tional targeted surveys on specific species. The current and projected NMFS fleet will never be able to respond fully to these growing demands for re- search surveys. These additional surveys are likely to be conducted from commercial and recreational fishing vessels, if they are to occur at all. We see great scientific potential in cooperation between scientists and fishermen. Fishermen bring field experience, practical knowledge, and plat- forms for collection of data. Scientists bring experimental design, the scien- tific method, and data synthesis. By bringing together the knowledge and skills of these two groups, the quality, quantity, and relevance of research may be greatly improved. SOCIAL CONTEXT OF COOPERATIVE RESEARCH A second benefit of cooperative research lies in building better under- standing between science and industry. It is clear that when the fishing industry has little confidence in the science, the political process is used to oppose regulations. For fishermen to have confidence in the regulatory pro- cess, they must have confidence in the data and the analysis that is used in developing regulations and management plans. Over the course of its open meetings, the committee heard numerous examples in which fishermen's participation in data collection led to greater confidence in the data, the analysis, and the management recommendations that emerged from the process. THE OBJECTWES OF P~TICIP~TS In the testimony presented to the committee, it became clear that there is a wide range of objectives in projects labeled as "cooperative." For the fishing industry, the objectives are primarily associated with improving management. They see cooperative projects as providing an opportunity to collect more and better data at lower cost, to provide scientifically accept- able information about stock dynamics and status for the assessment pro- cess, to become more aware of how ongoing data collection programs actu- ally work, and to be true partners in the process. Bringing fishermen into the data collection process and increasing their understanding of the scientific process provides benefits to NMFS. Coop- erative research projects provide a way for NMFS to obtain additional data,
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INTRODUCTION 1 1 to get access to vessels and time at sea, to take advantage of the practical knowledge of fishermen, and to develop effective partnerships with indus- try. Universities have also been major players in cooperative research pro- . . . . . . . . grams, participating ( erects .y in cooperative researc 1, sometimes serving as intermediaries between industry and government, and in other cases providing scientific input and credibility for projects led by the fishing industry. Cooperative research projects provide university researchers with funding, training opportunities for students, and an entree into regional management issues. Retired university, NMFS, and other scientists should also be considered for participation in cooperative research projects. Coop- erative research provides opportunities for these scientists to continue to make contributions to fisheries science and management. Recreational fishermen can benefit in ways similar to commercial fishermen and should be considered for cooperative research projects that are appropriate to the vessels, gear, and expertise they possess. The long- standing billfish tagging by recreational fishermen is an example of poten- tial cooperative research. The emergence of nongovernmental organizations with expertise in marine research, facilitation, or fishing community outreach provides a further opportunity for successful partnerships. Not only can these organi- zations participate directly in cooperative research projects, they can also serve as an intermediary between scientists and fishermen. An aquarium or independent research facility or organization, often with a reputation for neutrality within the community and an entrepreneurial culture that allows it to act as an interface, can provide flexible services in a way not easily accomplished by government or academic institutions. Indigenous groups throughout the United States have a major interest in fisheries regulated by NMFS, particularly the salmon fisheries of the West Coast. Indigenous organizations are intensively involved in co- management of many salmon resources and conduct significant scientific research, often in conjunction with state agencies but also with NMFS. The committee heard of no cases where indigenous groups were funded through specific cooperative research grants, as most of their money comes from other sources, but there is nothing to exclude indigenous groups from becoming involved in the cooperative research programs. However, the committee felt that the special nature of indigenous treaty rights and salmon was not a model for other cooperative research activities, and we have ex- cluded this work from our considerations. Finally, environmental organizations represent another potential coop-
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12 COOPERATIVE RESEAR CHIN THE NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE erative research partner. Although they have not yet been as intensively involved in cooperative research projects as other parties, there are some notable exceptions. Cooperative research projects could provide an increas- ingly important forum for environmental organizations to participate in the management process and to help solve problems of particular concern.
Representative terms from entire chapter: