As warm weather approaches, anglers across the country start to feel the itch. They’ll string their rods, load up their backpacks with their newest lures and head out for the nearest lake, pond or river. With a mixture of luck and skill, they’ll hopefully bring in more than a few of their favorite catch.
These days, in addition to the bliss they feel near the water, however, anglers also feel concern. Fisheries are in trouble, overfished and pushed to their limit. The consequences are high: entire cultures rely on fish as a main source of protein, others depend on fishing to make a living, and selectively fishing certain species leads to imbalanced populations affecting the food chain. Without a sustainable approach, dwindling fish populations will have a dire domino effect on millions of people and aquatic animals.
Management of aqua ecosystems is of prime importance today. On the front lines, anglers recognize this and many willingly catch and release. Technology is starting to provide them with useful tools as well.
One example is the app called Fishbrain, which syncs with the water resistant Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F30 watch. Already connecting the world’s largest network of anglers, Fishbrain users have the ability to share the size, type and location of catches. Fishbrain, in turn, works the numbers to provide anglers with the when and where to make the best catches. The tool can also drill down to help anglers track what techniques and tackle works or doesn’t work each time they fish, improving their odds in the future. It can be difficult to pull out your smartphone and input data while balancing your reel and rod with one hand, and attempting to steady a rocking boat with the other. So now with the Casio partnership, anglers can leave their phones safely in their bags and input key data, such as time and date, your location and catch species, with a quick tap of their wrists, making data collection even more accessible.
Aqua sustainability researchers learned of the app and recently partnered with Fishbrain. The collaboration involves the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in the U.K., Ball State University in the United States, and the Technical University of Denmark, and will greatly improve the researchers’ abilities to harness data on where, when, and what anglers are fishing. “Gathering data on a large scale is challenging,” says Paul Venturelli, a Ball State researcher and assistant professor. “Fishbrain can provide us with comprehensive information we couldn’t collect otherwise.”
To date, the researchers have been able to compare the Fishbrain data with aerial collections from governmental agencies. “It’s interesting to see the consistency from one to the other,” says Venturelli, “which suggests we can use the Fishbrain data to help look for trends and understand the state of various fisheries.”
The end result is that “citizen science” is in play and anglers have a voice in the sustainability of aquatic ecosystems, something of great importance to them. With the Casio watch on and the app engaged, contributing to the future health of fisheries is now part of an angler’s routine.