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    Focusing and testing fisher know-how to solve conservation problems: a common sense approach

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    E.F. Melvin and J.K. Parrish (USA)
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    Worldwide, the incidental capture or bycatch of marine organisms, especially mammals, turtles and seabirds, can pose serious threats to specific animal populations causing public outcry and regulatory attention. When such issues arise, especially in US fisheries, they can threaten fisheries and necessitate immediate solutions. Unfortunately, no standard mechanisms exist within stewardship and regulatory authorities to go beyond problem identification to crafting solutions. We have worked to devise solutions to seabird mortality in two fisheries: the Puget Sound drift gillnet fishery for sockeye salmon and the longline fisheries in Alaska for sablefish and Pacific cod. Although these fisheries are very different, the cooperative research model we have developed is the same and is proving successful in both. At the most basic level, this model includes communication and cooperation with all stakeholders, strict scientific protocols and development of effective and practical regulations. Although this model was developed with specific reference to seabird bycatch reductions, it is readily applicable to a wide range of conservation issues. There are three key elements: 1) Working with industry leaders through relevant industry associations to identify possible new technologies and/or operational practices that are practical and likely to solve the problem; 2) Testing the proposed solutions in a collaborative study on active fishing vessels using strict scientific protocols, and developing incentives for individual participants to: a) host scientists, who collect the necessary data, and b) adhere to a specific scientific protocol within their standard operation is key; 3) Crafting new regulations based on the results of the research program in cooperation with the industry, resource management agencies and conservation organizations. Our model results in proof at two levels. At the practical level, fisher’s ideas are tested in the context of an active fishery. At the scientific level, peer review and publication certify results for the regulatory, academic, and conservation communities.