Long-term sampling programs are a crucial component of fisheries research. Without long-term sampling programs, proper assessment of fish species and subsequent management would not be possible. Long-term fisheries surveys are a mechanism to obtain data for ecosystem-based fisheries management, assess community structure and diversity, act as a framework to collect research samples, and most importantly, be used as an indicator of relative abundance. We calculate relative abundance by implementing the concept of proportionality; we assume that catch is proportional to abundance in a given area at that time. Trends in relative abundance allow us to interpret patterns of abundance over time, which indicates the effects of over- or unregulated fishing and/or response of the population to management regulations.
I plan to create an infographic geared towards adult members of the public that can be shared formally and informally via social media and the internet. This infographic will start by posing the question, “How do scientists count fish?” This will act as a way to get the viewer to think differently about methods we use in fisheries science. I will then demonstrate a theoretical, standardized fishing set at two separate locations. The location with a high abundance will yield a high catch; the other with low abundance will yield low catch. This will demonstrate how we use proportionality to assess trends in relative abundance. After demonstrating how we calculate relative abundance, I will include explanations for how relative abundance is used with other sources of data (commercial & recreational catches, length distributions, etc.) in integrated stock assessment models to estimate actual fish abundance. I will also include explanations as to why we can’t use commercial fishing (fishery-dependent) data (i.e., fishers are too smart, and don’t waste resources sampling at scientifically designed locations if these sites will not yield a high catch; this significantly affects inferences of relative abundance).
This infographic can be specialized to accommodate different fishing gears (i.e., longline, trawl, gillnet) and different species (i.e., sharks, bottom fishes, sturgeon). Each specialized infographic can have an additional section including a graph of relative abundance of a species of interest over time, and how that trend can be interpreted with respect to key management actions, etc. For example, in the shark longline infographic, I can present results from my master’s thesis findings, and in the bottom fishes trawl example I can highlight work conducted by my research group at VIMS (Multispecies Research Group; MRG).