The role of citizen science in sustainable river herring harvest is the focus of a more than $49,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The co-principal investigators are Theodore Willis and Karen Wilson at the University of Southern Maine, and Karen Hutchins Bieluch, Linda Silka and Laura Lindenfeld at the University of Maine.
Maine is one of only three states currently harvesting river herring. The researchers believe that collaborations between the state, harvesters and citizens who live in the towns where river herring runs occur can play a role in ensuring a sustainable river herring fishery. Additional data is needed to help inform decisions about fishery management and sustainability. One potential solution to collecting more data for future stock assessments is to expand the role of citizen scientists in gathering data on river herring. Citizen science involves members of the public in gathering and sometimes analyzing scientific data about a particular issue of interest. Citizen science not only generates important scientific data, but it also has been shown to be an important educational tool for learning about nature and about the production of science broadly. There are three primary goals of this project:
- Investigating the various attempts at citizen science monitoring of river herring, collating the successes and difficulties, and producing a road map useful to other groups interested in getting involved with local river herring monitoring and management.
- Working with pilot communities to assist them in developing monitoring programs and, simultaneously, assess the accuracy of citizen efforts in producing harvest independent records.
- Collaborating with stakeholders, facilitating meetings, interviewing members of the stakeholder groups, performing participant-observation at meetings and monitoring activities, and designing and implementing surveys to study participant perceptions, attitudes and intent to continue citizen science monitoring efforts.
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