The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and Harbor Lights Software have been awarded a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to develop an electronic monitoring pilot program for volunteer angler reporting.
The pilot project aims to create a volunteer recreational angler logbook for use on tablets and smart phones to collect recreational data on catch and effort from the angling public, and to promote the usage of the software among recreational anglers in Rhode Island. This project specifically seeks to develop, test and pilot innovative solutions to address inadequate insight into the impact of recreational fishing on fisheries management in the state of Rhode Island.
Steve Medeiros, RISAA president, said, “Better recreational fishing date is crucial to recreational fishing. Electronic recording and monitoring is part of the solution and this grant will help prove that. We are excited to work with RI DEM and Harbor Lights Software on this important project. The hope is that better recreational fishing data to complement MRIP date will lead to healthier fish stocks so we have more fish in the water for all of us to catch, eat and/or release.”
The project will apply electronic technologies (ET) to improve the timeliness and quality of fisheries data available to Rhode Island fisheries management personnel, increase knowledge of fisheries for management, industry and science purposes, and empower fishermen and other citizens to become more actively involved in the data collection process.
Francine Karp, CEO and co-founder of Harbor Lights Software, said, “The data processing aspects of this project consists of a mobile application compatible with Android and iOS phones and tablets, which will report data to a cloud-hosted software service which will manage the storage of the data.”
The database created by the software is being developed to provide secure access to the data by Rhode Island Division of Marine Fisheries to enhance their fisheries management activities.
Francine Karp said, “Supplemental capabilities will be developed, based on feedback from the recreational fishing community for the purposes of encouraging continued usage of the application, which provide information to anglers based on their fishing efforts, the efforts of the community at-large, or supplemental information of value such as weather and tide data, fishing regulations, species identification guides and more.”
Steve Medeiros said, “This is where we need angler participation and input. To determine what software features would first entice an angler to sign up to use the software and second what features would engage anglers to continue to use the software on a regular basis in year two.”
John Lake, Supervising Biologist from the RI Division of Marine Fisheries, is the pilot project coordinator. The project is expected to help fish mangers get a better idea of recreational fishing discards as well as the length of fish caught and discarded.
Mr. Lake said, “Discard data collected by MRIP APAIS interviews on the shore or at the dock is based on angler recall, currently there is no way to evaluate the accuracy of these angler-reported discards. The data collected from this application will provide an additional source of data on these unobserved discards for comparison.”
Discard size measurements of recreational angling are now collected by direct observation on head/party boats. It is unknown if these samples represent the discards in the other modes of the recreational fishery.
“Data collected by this application will allow managers to compare the discards from other modes of recreational fishing to the head boat discard data,” said Mr. Lake.
RISAA's project participation
RISAA is providing the project with participants to both help design the software to make it appealing to use in the short and long term. Additionally, RISAA is helping to cultivate and recruit recreational anglers that will actually use the software as a pilot project participant.
RISAA is in the process of implementing its support of the pilot grant program as a major RISAA program for members and affiliates.
RISAA engage includes:
Market scan of what software has already been developed. The idea is to identify features that are working and those that do not seem to be working so we learn from what has already been developed.
Electronic recording panel. Develop a panel of RISAA members and affiliates to serve as a sounding board through the software’s development and implementation. A panel of eight to ten is sought who would meet electronically (and in person when allowed) as needed to provide input, assess work product and to help recruit and implement angler participation in the program. Presently six members have volunteered, four more volunteers are needed and should be representative of shore, boat and the spear fishing recreational community.
Ideation/focus group input. RISAA will be recruiting two groups of eight to ten to participate in focus groups to identify the types of features the software should have to entice anglers to use it. The focus groups will also garner input on how anglers feel about software features being used in other applications, and most important brainstorm new ideas/features for consideration.
Angler survey. Once angler input is obtained from focus groups, the project team will try to build a consensus on top desired software features by surveying members and affiliates to identify the most desirable software features.
Communications campaign. RISAA will take a leadership role to help develop and implement a marketing communications plan that aims to create awareness and ongoing interest in the program to recruit and maintain pilot participants. The plan will likely utilize a number of communication strategies and tactics including email marketing, fishing show participation, bait & tackle shop point of purchase information, social media and an ongoing advertising and public relations feature story effort in fishing and consumer publications read by the fishing community.
How can you engage in the project?
If you fish and land your recreational catch in Rhode Island consider being a pilot project participant. RISAA and DEM will soon be signing up anglers for the project and will post participant forms on their website. But in the meantime if you have any questions and want to express your interest in the project contact me (Dave Monti) as I am serving as the RISAA project coordinator, email me at email@example.com or call 401/480-3444.
Where’s the bite?
Freshwater fishing in ponds stocked with trout has been very good. For 2021 licensing information and a list of trout stocked ponds in Rhode Island visit http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/fish-wildlife/freshwater-fisheries; and in Massachusetts visit www.mass.gov/freshwater-fishing-information.
Cod fishing. Party boats fishing for cod this winter include the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com, the Seven B’s at www.sevenbs.com, and the Island Current at www.islandcurrent.com.
Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.noflukefishing.com.