Stories in Massachusetts

Using Technology to Transform Fisheries Monitoring

Cameras on fishing boats save time and money

Electronic Monitoring
Electronic Monitoring: In partnership with The Nature Conservancy, IT Project Manager with MRAG Americas, Connie Delano, hooks up a video camera to monitor the daily fishing catch of the Dawn T at Saquatucket harbor in Harwich, Cape Cod © Lauren Owens Lambert

New England groundfish species, such as Atlantic cod, are in trouble, and catch quotas for struggling fishermen are at historic lows. Finding cost-effective ways to gather accurate fishing information has never been more important - for fish and for fishermen.

That’s why, in 2016, for the first time, The Nature Conservancy collaborated with fishermen from Massachusetts and Maine to use digital cameras rather than human monitors to document discards of groundfish on commercial fishing trips.

“Fishermen have long sought ways to use technology to both improve catch data and meet federal monitoring requirements,” says Chris McGuire, marine program director for the Conservancy in Massachusetts and the project’s manager. “This work is intended to develop electronic monitoring into an accepted, accurate and affordable alternative for the fishermen who choose to use it.”

With grant assistance from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, technical teams installed cameras on boats from Cape Cod and coastal Maine early last summer, and participating fishermen headed out with the cameras in place starting in June.

Video from the cameras is sent to third-party reviewers who document all discarded fish species, providing data that can be used to help manage Atlantic cod and other groundfish species such as haddock and flounders.

“Participating fishermen recognize that good science and management require good information about catch,” McGuire says, “and the Conservancy worked closely with these fishermen, regulators and scientists to develop this program.”