Size matters – especially when it comes to fisheries management.
A new collaborative project SMILE (Size Matters: Innovative Length Estimate) is now underway in the Florida Keys to help collect information about fish lengths. These data are critical for fisheries stock assessments, which are used to manage ecologically and economically important marine species. Funded through NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP), the SMILE project involves volunteer divers, innovative underwater camera technology, and the expansion of a citizen science approach to collect length data for reef fish in the South Atlantic.
The SMILE project team includes scientist from REEF, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s (SAFMC) Citizen Science Program, Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA), and Axiom Data Science. The SMILE project will incorporate diver-collected fish length data, through the use of stereo video technology, as a companion to the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project.
Fish length data traditionally require a fish in-hand to make measurements, and it can be difficult for scientists to collect this information. By leveraging trained REEF citizen scientist divers, this collaboration will provide valuable fish length data for fisheries stock assessments and ecosystem-based management.
Citizen science programs, such as the REEF VFSP and the SMILE project, empower the public to generate monitoring data and promote active participation in resource management science. Divers and snorkelers are in a unique position, as they can serve as ‘the eyes of scientists’ in marine ecosystems by reporting their findings.
The camera technology for this project is being developed by a team of engineers at the University of California San Diego, Engineers for Exploration program and The Semmens Lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. A stakeholder panel will provide expertise throughout the project on survey methodology, fish species of interest, and site selection for image collection. All video files, images, fish species abundance and length data will be made publicly accessible for current research and management needs and future advancement of machine learning technologies.
Through the funding support of NOAA CRCP, the partnership between REEF, SAFMC’s Citizen Science Program, SECOORA, Scripps Oceanography, UCSD and Axiom Data Science will bring new data sources into stock and ecosystem assessment processes and increase communication to the dive community about fisheries management issues.
Interested in supporting the project? Please contact alli@REEF.org
The SMILE project is funded through NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP), Funding Award #FNA22NMF4410182. Project partners include South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s (SAFMC) Citizen Science Program, Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA), Axiom Data Science, Scripps Institution of Oceanography Semmens Lab, University of California San Diego (UCSD) Engineers for Exploration, (E4E), UCSD Kastner Research Lab and The Nature Conservancy California. Field testing of the technology was also funded in part by a grant from the nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida (FWFF) via proceeds from the ‘Discover Florida’s Oceans’ license plate.