Skipper Science app seeks Kodiak voices after a year of silence

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The Skipper Science Partnership connects scientists and fishers all over the state, but received radio silence from the Kodiak Archipelago last year. Now in its third year, the program has some incentives to hear from folks with firsthand knowledge of what’s happening in the water. 

The Skipper Science Partnership is a free program that allows fishers to sign up and report information for scientists right from their phones. 

A stellar sea lion spotted near Pier 2, just outside of Kodiak’s city limits, March 15, 2022. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

Hannah-Marie Garcia is the Indigenous sentinels coordinator for Aleut community of St. Paul Island, and is one person traveling the state to get folks to sign up. Garcia says the app is a great way for fishers to better legitimize climate observations when presenting to researchers and management entities. 

“We were hearing from fishermen in various programs across the state that they felt as if they were sharing their observations and their knowledge in public comment periods and felt like they were being dismissed as anecdotal in that process or that their observations or what they’re seeing were kind of a one-off,” she said. 

Whether it’s weather data, fish caught or released, or fish depth, they take information to be put into studies later on. Data collected may also be referenced in discussions with management bodies like Fish and Game or the Board of Fish.

Kodiak is one of the biggest commercial fishing ports in the country by volume and value, but last year Garcia says they had zero entries from the fleet.  

Now in its third year, program coordinators are seeking to bolster participation, and that includes paying fisherfolk for their data. 

“If they just joined and they submit their first observation, they’ll get $100 and then throughout the season, every observation that individuals will submit will count as kind of a raffle ticket,” Garcia said.

Participants will then be eligible for a drawing for $500 gift cards. 

A pod of orcas, colloquially known as the “Kodiak Killers,” spotted near the Kodiak Hana Restaurant, March 25, 2023. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

But fishers aren’t the only ones who can sign up, anyone who’s out and about can report things like marine mammal sightings. All folks have to do is download their app and upload their findings. 

“Just download the app, create the account, and you can submit your photographs or any observations, especially because wildlife photography really has some great insight in what whales are returning to the region and stuff like that or marine mammals,” Garcia said. 

Reports can be made on their app, ISN Skipper Science and photos also have the option to be credited to a photographer or can be submitted anonymously. Reports can be made while out in the field, but require an internet connection to be submitted.

Garcia says seven Kodiak residents have already signed up since ComFish last month, and they hope to start receiving reports soon. 

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