Documenting the Fishery


Nearly all known aggregations of the larger food fishes will have some type of fishery associated with them; no published studies of spawning aggregations of food fishes have been conducted in the absence of a fishery. Studying an unfished aggregation could lead to some valuable comparative data, but will likely require traveling to a very remote location, requiring substantial resources. Because most aggregations are going to have a fishery, documenting fisheries that are targeting spawning aggregations has become the most important task for field workers. While the behavioral ecology aspects of spawning aggregations are typically more interesting to researchers, there is a need to have every available aggregation that is exploited documented, which inevitably includes documenting the level of exploitation. In this era of global fisheries markets and efficient fishing technologies, aggregation fishing that goes undocumented and unchecked could lead to the rapid extirpation of targeted aggregations. All researchers who venture into the field to study spawning aggregations must understand their responsibility to place a high priority on collecting fishery information.

Several approaches can be taken to document a fishery, including government catch statistics, fishery-dependent surveys and interviews. The interviewing skills discussed in Section III are also important for documenting aggregation fisheries. Much of the information needed to write a summary of a particular fishery can be collected at the dock through interviews and observation. Observations made in the field are valuable for confirming information obtained through interviews or collecting data independent from interviews. Through these interviews it may be possible to arrange for a trip on a fishing vessel to observe the fishery directly.