The responsible management of highly migratory species requires cooperation across state, regional, and international boundaries, with tournament data playing a key role in many aspects of management. A recent collaboration among NOAA Fisheries’ Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Management Division, the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, and the Fisheries Information System Program is improving the registration and reporting process for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species tournaments, making the system more effective and efficient for tournament operators and scientists alike.
Essential data for management
Along with the excitement and lifelong memories they offer to every level of sport fisherman, the nearly 300 Atlantic Highly Migratory Species tournaments that take place annually also yield critical data for prized fish. The tournament data are key information used to develop abundance indices, determine population trends, inform catch and effort statistics used for stock assessments, and meet international reporting requirements.
Until the summer of 2017, tournament registration and reporting had been managed by NOAA Fisheries’ Highly Migratory Species Management Division and Southeast Fisheries Science Center using two separate databases. The complex, time-consuming system relied on paper and PDF registration applications and catch reports, numerous fax and email communications between NOAA Fisheries staff and tournament operators, and data transcription into several databases.
Modernizing registration and reporting with the Fisheries Information System Program
The Science Center and Highly Migratory Species Management Division teamed with the Fisheries Information System Program to develop a single, automated system for all Highly Migratory Species tournament data and eliminate overlapping efforts between the offices. This state-regional-federal collaboration aims to improve access to comprehensive, high-quality, timely fisheries information. The joint effort yielded the new Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Tournament Registration and Reporting system, launched in August 2017, which features an online portal for Highly Migratory Species tournament operators, and dynamic querying and summary capabilities for NOAA Fisheries staff.
“I can do it from anywhere”
Tournament operators have welcomed the change, enabling them to register their tournaments using smartphones or tablets, and avoid cumbersome paperwork. Robert “Fly” Navarro—an avid offshore fisherman, guide, and tournament operator—has already noted the difference. Navarro runs four to five HMS tournaments each year, with about 200 boats participating in total.
“It was very, very easy, and I think it’s going to get even easier as time goes on. I can do it from anywhere—I don’t have to have a printer or scanner,” says Navarro, who spent about 10 minutes registering his four 2018 tournaments in the new system. Additionally, tournament approval is confirmed within a day, instead of taking up to 2 weeks in the prior system. That makes a big difference in terms of being able to plan and promote his events.
Navarro anticipates the program’s benefits will extend to post-tournament reporting. “I won’t need to get back to my office to fill out reports or send it to a colleague to do it for me. Instead, I can continue to work out in the field, and will be able to click on my registration number to report day by day what was caught. This could be done within minutes of a tournament being completed.”
Improving efficiency and accuracy
The new system benefits staff in both the Science Center and Highly Migratory Species Management Division. The direct submission of data reduces transcription errors, increasing quality control and assurance. Automatic system reminders to tournament operators alleviate the need to track data down. The new tool’s increased efficiency and accuracy means staff can spend less time managing data and more time analyzing it. And because tournament landings are an important source of HMS data, the enhancements also contribute to overall improvements in the management of these species.
Looking toward the future, the system can integrate with recreational tournament catch reporting programs for other federally managed species. NOAA Fisheries staff could, for instance, more easily track compliance for both federal and state law enforcement, and collaborate with state partners in outreach efforts.
All photos courtesy of Robert Navarro.