PhD Student Researches Monitoring Program and Fishermen’s Preferences

logo-w-sunburstKayla Desroches/KMXT

A University of Alaska Fairbanks PhD candidate is studying how halibut fishermen feel about bycatch and data collection.

Elizabeth Figus says in spring 2015, she went to four different halibut fishing communities in Southeast and interviewed 78 fishermen. She says one preliminary finding pointed to fishermen’s opinions about monitoring methods and the observer program.

“I found that pretty consistently people ranked human observers as lowest on their preference list by a large margin and then electronic monitoring or keeping detailed log books or going back to the way that things were before the 2013 changes actually all ranked much higher in a group going back to the old status quo being the highest preference.”

She says that tells her fishermen prefer the least obtrusive strategy for collecting data on their vessels.

“A lot of what people talked about was that if they hadn’t carried observers before, they were concerned about the inconveniences as well as their uncertainty about how individual people might react to being on their boat, they also voiced concern for the objectiveness of a human researcher on the boat. At the same time some people who had carried observers in the past voiced a preference for staying the way that that was.”

She says the ultimate goal of her project is to integrate fishermen’s preferences into management strategies.

“And we have ways to hear what individual people say at organizational or governmental meetings right now, but we really have a lack of ability in our policy system as it stands to systemically incorporate that the same way that we might consider a biological stock assessment.”

Figus will give a talk about her research Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center. You can also hear a more in-depth conversation with her on Talk of the Rock Tuesday starting at 12:30 p.m.

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