Skipper Science Partnership expands to Bristol Bay

The Skipper Science Partnership is expanding to Bristol Bay, thanks to the collaborative effort of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) and the University of Washington.

The goal of the program is to help fishery managers and researchers better understand migration patterns of Nushagak River Chinook salmon across both time and space, using a community-owned database that allows fishermen to log observations in real time from fishing grounds and record them using a smartphone app.

“The existing Skipper Science app is a perfect platform for the fleet to provide catch rate data that can enable managers in future years to make decisions on when and where commercial fishing can open, while still allowing for adequate Chinook escapement,” said Curry Cunningham, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

“Conservation of king salmon in the Nushagak district during the (predominantly) sockeye fishery is a key issue in the spotlight after several years of extremely strong sockeye runs and relatively weak king returned,” Cunningham said. “Better understanding of the spatial distribution of kings in the Nushagak district and how that might change across the season is critical.”

“The Nushagak King Mapping Project gives fishermen a chance to be part of the solution and to put their expertise to work,” said Bristol Bay harvester Michael Jackson, a board member of the BBRSDA.

Jackson said the partnership will allow Bristol Bay harvesters to lend a meaningful hand to fisheries managers to allow for as much commercial fishing as possible while protecting Chinook returns. “Skipper Science gives us a tool to do just that, and I hope that fellow fishermen will join me in rolling up our sleeves and lending a hand here so that we can all come out the other side of this with plentiful Chinook escapement up the Nush and abundant early June fishing time as well,” he said.

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Skipper Science Program coordinator Hannah-Marie Garcia, of the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island, said Skipper Science is a valuable resource for researchers, managers and policy makers.

“Fishermen participating in the Skipper Science Partnership have demonstrated their ability to translate observations into quality data through the use of the app and dialogues with managers,” she said.

“We are thrilled to be working on projects like the Nushagak King Salmon Mapping Project that shows how the program is working directly with fisheries managers and the scientific community to meaningfully incorporate fishermen’s data and observations into their decision making.”

Fishermen can sign up to participate at http://skipperscience.org. For more information about the project, please visit www.bbrsda.com/nushagak-king-mapping.

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