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Fishing is a $200-billion industry in the United States, providing 1.7 million jobs. The economically important Gulf of Mexico Reef Fishery includes more than 890 commercial reef fish permitted vessels and comprises 31species managed using Annual Catch Limits. Objective, scientific data are necessary to ensure the fishery’s health, but currently, the NOAA Fisheries Observer Program is only able to monitor about 2% of vessels fishing effort in the fishery.

To complement this important program and fill monitoring gaps — a need emphasized by federal fisheries managers and the commercial industry — the independent, nonprofit Mote Marine Laboratory operates the Center for Fisheries Electronic Monitoring at Mote (CFEMM).

CFEMM is the only program dedicated to developing and assessing electronic monitoring (EM) technology as a tool in the Gulf of Mexico commercial reef fish fishery to better meet the demand by industry and management for accurate, independent data to ensure long-term fishery health.

What CFEMM does – “Eyes on the Gulf”

CFEMM is a leader in advancing electronic monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico commercial reef fish fishery in partnership with the fishing industry, federal and state management organizations, EM equipment and software provider Saltwater Inc., data analysis contributor Waterinterface LLC., and various stakeholders. 

Volunteer commercial fishers partner with CFEMM scientists and Saltwater Inc., an EM equipment and software provider based in Anchorage, Alaska, to have specialized cameras, a computer processor, and sensors installed on their fishing vessels (left photo above, left photo below). These systems record the trip length, speed, hydraulic pressure, location, and fishing events (sets, soaks and hauls) on a timeline. Video recordings (with no sound) are reviewed confidentially by the CFEMM Team (right photo below) to document fishing effort, total catch and bycatch of species per event and trip, species kept/discarded, and species disposition at capture and release.

CFEMM scientists and partner Waterinterface LLC. analyze the collected data to demonstrate and improve the available technology and data products — including much-needed bycatch and discard data — for management of the valuable Gulf reef fish fishery. CFEMM scientists correlate their EM trip data with identifiers for other fisheries monitoring data from the same trips, including observer logs, dealer trip tickets, and biological sampling to augment datasets for management needs.

CFEMM coverage

CFEMM results summary

  • 18 bottom longline and vertical-line vessels from Florida and Texas have participated in EM research that provides real data of use to fisheries management.
  • More than 130,000 species catch, bycatch, and discard records have been reviewed and documented, including their catch and release dispositions, to inform management and the fishers, while respecting commercial fishers data confidentially.
  • CFEMM and partners have used EM as a tool to monitor more than 350 commercial  fishing trips.
  • More than 140 finfish and shark species/species groupings have been recorded by CFEMM since 2016.
  • Efforts are under way to further develop underwater documentation of large shark cut-offs, and shark and marine mammal gear and targeted catch depredation (a monitoring priority for this fishery), using an underwater camera (UCAM) integrated with the EM system —. (Right photo: shark viewed from above water vs. UCAM)
  • Testing is taking place for recording fish measurements, using a Saltwater Inc. software tool.
  • A discard chute is being tested to quantify and measure discards of undersize targeted species. 
  • Initial steps are being made to use cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology to reduce manual video review time by employing catch detection algorithms to find catch events and shark discards in unreviewed video.

To learn more, see these CFEMM article links:

Opportunities to work with CFEMM

We invite our colleagues from resource management agencies, Fishery Management Councils, scientific institutions and the fishing industry to contact CFEMM to explore opportunities for collaboration and knowledge exchange.

As part of the independent, nonprofit Mote Marine Laboratory, CFEMM depends on competitive grants and philanthropic support, along with a team of dedicated, trained community scientists (citizen scientists).

Contact CFEMM


Carole L. Neidig, M.S.
Staff Scientist, Program Manager
Directorate for Fisheries and Aquaculture
cneidig@mote.org
941-704-7663
 

Projects in progress

Electronic Monitoring Applications and Data Solutions for Sustainability in a Gulf of Mexico Multispecies Fishery, Phase II
Funding: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Electronic Monitoring and Recording (EMR) grant.
Primary Project Organizations (PI’s): Mote Marine Laboratory (lead), Waterinterface, LLC.,
Participants/Contributors: Blenker Boatworks & Marina, Fishbusterz, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Get Reel Fisheries LLC., Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, Katie’s Seafood, NOAA NMFS SEFSC, Saltwater Inc., Save-On Seafood Co., Snug Harbor Boat Works, Wild Seafood Co., and individual vessel owners, captains and crew.

Application and Advancement of Innovative Technologies for Electronic Monitoring (EM) in Support of Best Fishing Practices for the Commercial Gulf of Mexico (GOMSnapper-Grouper Fishery - Phase II
Funding: NOAA NMFS Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program (BREP) 
Primary Project Organizations (PI’s): Mote Marine Laboratory (lead), Waterinterface, LLC.
Participants/Contributors:  Blenker Boatworks & Marina, Get Reel Fisheries LLC., NOAA NMFS SEFSC, Fishbusterz, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, NOAA NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Saltwater Inc., Save-On Seafood Co., SeaSucker LLC., Snug Harbor Boat Works, SubAqua Imaging Systems Inc., and individual vessel owners, captains, and crew.

Functional Electronic Monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery, Phase II: Tactical Assessment of Bycatch, Discards, and Community Structure including Highly Migratory and Data Limited Species
Funding: Grant from NOAA’s Cooperative Research Project (CRP)
Primary Project Organizations (PI’s): Mote Marine Laboratory (lead), Waterinterface, LLC.
Participants/Contributors: Fishbusterz, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, Lewis Woods Welding, NOAA NMFS SEFSC and SERO, Saltwater Inc., Save-On Seafood Co., Snug Harbor Boat Works, and vessel owners, captains and crew.

Building Linkages for Use of Electronic and Human Observer Data in the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery
Funding: Net Gains Alliance
Primary Project Organizations (PI’s): Mote Marine Laboratory
Participants/Contributors:  Waterinterface LLC.

Completed projects

Gulf-Wide Electronic Monitoring for a Sustainable Commercial Reef Fish Fishery.
Grant Fund: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Electronic Monitoring and Recording (EMR)
Primary Project Organizations (PI’s): Mote Marine Laboratory (lead), Waterinterface, LLC.,
Participants/Contributors: Bay-N-Gulf, Inc., Blenker Boatworks & Marina, Fishbusterz, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, Katie’s Seafood, NOAA NMFS SEFSC, Saltwater Inc., Save-On Seafood Co., Snug Harbor Boat Works, Wild Seafood Co., and individual vessel owners, captains and crew.

Best Fishing Practices for Bycatch Reduction in the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery: Employing Innovation Underwater Cameras and the Refined Modeling to Further the Use of Electronic Monitoring.
Grant Fund: NOAA/NMFS Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program (BREP) grant
Project organizations: Mote Marine LaboratoryParticipants/Contributors: Bay-N-Gulf, Inc., Blenker Boatworks & Marina, Fishbusterz, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, Hubbard’s Marina, Katie’s Seafood, Saltwater Inc. Save-On Seafood Co., Snug Harbor Boat Works, Sub Aqua Imaging Systems Inc., Waterinterface, LLC, and vessel owners, captains and crew. 

Reducing Bycatch and Optimizing Efficiency in the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery, Phase I: Accurately Assessing the Bycatch Problem Using Electronic Monitoring in Cooperative Research
Grant Fund: NOAA NMFS Cooperative Research Project (CRP)
Primary Project Organizations (PI’s): Mote Marine Laboratory (leader) and Waterinterface LLC
Participants/Contributors: Bay-N-Gulf, Inc., Fishbusterz, Lewis Woods Welding, Save-On Seafood Company, Snug Harbor Boat Works, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, and Saltwater Inc., Wild Seafood Co., and vessel owners, captains and crew.

Accurately Assessing Catch and Bycatch with Electronic Monitoring (EM): The Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery as a Model for EM Application and Improvement
Grant Fund: Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
Primary Project Organizations (PI’s): Mote Marine Laboratory
Participants/Contributors: Archipelago Marine Research, Ltd., Bay-N-Gulf Inc., Fishbusterz, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, Saltwater Inc., Save-On Seafood Co., Snug Harbor Boat Works, Wild Seafood Co., and  vessel owners, captains and crew.

Regional Capacity Building for Gulf Electronic Monitoring
Funding: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Innovation Fund
Primary Project Organizations (PI’s): Mote Marine Laboratory (leader), Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Foundation, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, Waterinterface LLC, and Archipelago Marine Research Ltd.
Participants/Contributors: Fishbusterz, Save-On Seafood Co., Wild Seafood Co., and vessel owners, captains and crew.

Pilot study of the use of electronic monitoring systems in the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fishery 
Grant Fund:  Ocean Conservancy, through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Innovation Fund
Primary Project Organizations (PI’s): Ocean Conservancy 
Participants/Contributors: Archipelago Marine Research Ltd., Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, East West Technical Services, and Mote Marine Laboratory

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