OCB Scoping Workshop: Building a Cost-effective Coastal Biogeochemical Observing Network in Collaboration with the Commercial Fishing Community

OCB Scoping Workshop: Building a Cost-effective Coastal Biogeochemical Observing Network in Collaboration with the Commercial Fishing Community

January 18-20, 2023 (Woods Hole, MA and virtual)

This 3-day scoping workshop initiated a dialog among key stakeholders and collaborators across the commercial fishing community, federal and state governments, technology companies, and academia to focus on building a cost-effective, coastal biogeochemical (BGC) observing network. Existing data coverage often lacks the spatial and temporal resolution to characterize key processes in dynamic coastal systems. What is needed is a more sustainable model for collecting high-resolution data, including BGC data, at a significantly lower cost that can provide improved spatial and temporal coverage. Fishing activities are uniquely well suited for such a sustainable model. A fishery-based BGC coastal observing network will provide data products that directly benefit fishing operations, marine resource management, coastal research, climate change mitigation, the Blue Economy and beyond. Building on decades of collaboration with the commercial fishing industry, this workshop provided a platform to share diverse stakeholder perspectives and end goals, learn about new and emerging observing capabilities and technologies, and discuss viable approaches to establish a fishery-based BGC observing network.

The workshop provided honorary stipends to commercial fishers who attend. If you have questions about the scope of the workshop, please contact lead organizer Z. Aleck Wang.

Workshop Plan

Day 1: State of the art: Existing fishery-based observing programs - Success, needs and lessons learned

Morning plenary session: Existing programs - Success and Lessons
Plenary 1: Existing fishery-base observing programs (successes and lessons)
Plenary 2: Existing fishery-base observing programs (successes and lessons)
Panel discussion Q&A

Afternoon session: Inputs, needs, and capabilities from the fishery community and other stakeholders
Introduction of the fisher groups from existing programs
Panel discussion with fishers involved in the existing observing programs
Breakout session: Inputs, needs, and capabilities from the fishery community and other stakeholders

Workshop dinner in Clark 507

Day 2: Technologies, data, and show-and-tell

Morning plenary session
Re-cap the science enabled by fishery-based observations
Existing instrumentation and telemetry used on fishing vessels
New BGC sensor technologies deployable on fishing vessels
Panel discussion: Industry summary of their operations (e.g. gear, deployment, etc.,  fishing community members)
Breakout: Technology success, needs, and hurdles

Afternoon plenary session: Data and Modeling using fishery-based observations
Data management and standards
Fishery modeling
BGC modeling
Breakout: data users and providers to discuss the needs, hurdles and quality controls.

Technology and data products show-and-tell (WHOI David Center for Ocean Innovation) -  Lightning talks, show-and-tell, and displays by participants and technology companies

Workshop reception (AVAST social hub)

Day 3: Summary, updates from agency and other observing programs, and sensor lottery (half day)

Morning session
Breakout group leaders summarize feedback/results
Breakout group leaders report back
Workshop summary
Updates from program managers and other observing programs
Conclusion remarks, comments and next steps

Lottery to give out new sensors to fishing captains for test deployments (need to confirm)

Box lunch, Adjourn and departure

Researcher Aubrey Ellertson points to data recorded on a test drop of the Connectivity Temperature and Depth sled. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Aubrey_Tony FV Miss Julie with NEFSC telemetry

Photo Credits: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Robin Lubbock, WBUR; Ocean Data Network.

WHOI Campus Map


The Planning Committee is mindful that the virus that causes Covid-19 is still present and that anytime large numbers of people gather together indoors there is a risk of people transmitting the virus to each other. In January 2023, several varieties of influenza are also a risk. To protect our community, the Meeting Planning Committee is taking the following measures:

  • Masks are highly encouraged while sitting together indoors in the meeting spaces at WHOI, in the hotel, and anytime you are in a group and not actively eating or drinking
  • At the registration desk, stickers will be made available so that attendees can indicate what level of contact they are most comfortable with:
    • A red sticker indicates that no contact is preferred. Greet these colleagues with a wave or a bow or a curtsy rather than a handshake and try your best to stay 6 feet away or maintain as much physical distance as possible
    • A yellow sticker indicates some caution. Elbow bumps are a preferred greeting
    • A green sticker indicates that handshakes are OK


The workshop will be held January 18-20, 2023 at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the Clark Building Fifth Floor, and one afternoon in the David Center for Ocean Innovation (Woods Hole Road, Quissett Campus) in Woods Hole, MA.


If you are attending in person and requested a hotel in your registration (deadline December 16) the organizers will reserve and pay for a hotel room for you at a negotiated rate of $113.31 at the Inn on the Square in Falmouth. You will receive an email confirmation of your hotel reservation from Mary Zawoysky 1-2 weeks before the workshop. If you need to cancel after January 13, it is your responsibility to contact the hotel directly to let them know, so that OCB does not pay for an empty hotel room. Please email Mary if you have any questions.

Air Travel and Ground Transportation

The two airports nearest to Woods Hole are Boston Logan Airport (BOS) and Providence T.F. Green Airport (PVD). Both airports are ~80 miles from Woods Hole, but Boston Logan Airport offers better bus service to Woods Hole. Please check bus schedules before finalizing your flight to ensure you will not arrive too late to catch the last bus.

The buses from the Boston airport (Peter Pan Bus Lines and Plymouth & Brockton) have a stop close to the Inn on the Square in Falmouth. Your departure "city" would be Boston Logan Airport or T.F. Green Airport, with arrival city as Falmouth to locate the correct schedule on their website. Other options to travel the ~90-minute trip from the airports to Woods Hole are the GoGreen Shuttle, White Tie Limousine, Enterprise and National car rentals, and taxis. We have also created a ride share spreadsheet to help participants coordinate shared rides to/from the airport among themselves.

If you are traveling by car, driving directions to Woods Hole are available here. We strongly discourage rental cars given the availability of mass transport options between the airport and Woods Hole. For those receiving travel support to attend the workshop, please note that we do not reimburse rental car expenses.

A workshop shuttle (White Tie Limo) will transport participants between the hotel and WHOI each day. If you are commuting to WHOI for the workshop each day with a personal vehicle, please contact Mary to get a parking pass for the Quissett campus.


Breakfast and lunch will be provided each day at the workshop (box lunch to go on day 3). A workshop dinner will be provided for all participants on the first night (Wed. Jan. 18) of the workshop. There will be a technology demonstration/show-and-tell on the second night of the workshop (Thurs. Jan. 19) that will include light dinner/heavy appetizer offerings. Each day will also include morning and afternoon coffee breaks and snacks.

If you have questions about the in person logistics please contact Mary Zawoysky.


The coastal ocean plays a critical role in food security, jobs, access to navigation, protection from natural hazards, and critical ecosystem services and resources. Yet this habitat has been experiencing profound changes rooted in human activities ranging from climate change and pollution to overfishing to loss of habitat and biodiversity, and is also among the most dynamic ocean regions with the highest biogeochemical rates and fluxes, ecosystem productivity, biodiversity, and value to maritime industries and economy.

Fishing activities are uniquely well-suited to provide high-resolution, repeated coverage of a specific coastal-shelf system, often going well beyond what traditional observation networks can cover. Fishing fleets can provide an opportunistic profiling and time-series platform for a variety of oceanographic in situ sensors. The spatial distribution of fishing activities is a particular advantage to the ocean observing community, as fishing is usually concentrated precisely where traditional ocean observation networks cannot operate. An approach of collaborative integration of ocean observation with the commercial fishing community provides a tremendous opportunity to collect data in the most dynamic regions where conventional ocean observing platforms are challenging or too costly to deploy and operate.

This BGC coastal observing initiative can leverage experiences from the successful fishery-based observing programs that measure physical parameters in the last decade, in terms of both building mutually beneficial relationships with the fishing community and obtaining quality data that meets multiple stakeholder needs. For example, several ongoing observational programs in collaboration with the regional commercial fishing community in the U.S. Northeast region have laid the groundwork for the ocean BGC observing community to build on and succeed. These include the Environmental Monitors on Lobster Traps and Large Trawlers program (eMOLT) and Study Fleet program run by the NOAA Northeast Fishery Sciences Center (NEFSC) Cooperative Research Branch (CRB), as well as the Shelf Research Fleet and Lobster and Jonah Crab Research Fleet by the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation (CFRF). In addition, Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation (GOMLF) provides coordination and support for the eMOLT program. All three programs have been collaborating with fishing communities to deploy temperature and depth (some salinity) sensors on fishing gear over the last few decades throughout the Northeast. More recently there have been pilot projects off of the Oregon Coast and South East Alaska.

Read the full proposal here.

Workshop Objectives and Deliverables

Four main objectives will build the framework for a future fishery-based coastal BGC observing network:

--Determine the scope of scientific questions that can be addressed by a fishery-based BGC observing network and observation program. Discussions will include identifying key parameters to incorporate into the observation network, temporal and spatial scales of interest, frequency of data availability, and necessary precision and accuracy of each variable of interest to successfully address the research priorities identified.

--Determine the logistical needs of this observation program. Discussions will include identifying optimal fisheries for participation, gear platforms for sensor deployment, targeted locations of interest, and available sensors that may be appropriate for incorporation into this observing network. We will also make a plan to design best practices for future sensor deployment on fishing vessels.

--Determine the needs of fishing industry members for participation. Discussions will seek to incorporate direct feedback and input from members of the fishing community to determine what data industry members would like to see collected and visualized in real time, how industry members might directly benefit from data collection, and what level of effort and compensation might be required for participation in a fishery-based observing network. Critical discussions will also focus on ways to share the data collected while ensuring fishing industry confidentiality.

--Determine the next steps and a road map to build a fishery-base BGC coastal observing network. Discussion may include identifying coastal regions/programs that such a BGC network can be built on, seeking funding support from federal, state and private sources, and forming teams to pursue fundings after the workshop.

The preliminary deliverables of the workshop will include a workshop report that summarize all major topics and conclusions throughout the workshop discussion as described above, as well as a plan to establish a steering and oversight committee to guide the initiative moving forward. We may also form various working groups to work on focused areas raised through the workshop.


Zhaohui Aleck Wang, Jennie Rheuban, Glen Gawarkiewicz (WHOI)
James Manning, George Maynard (NOAA NEFSC)
Erin Pelletier (Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation)
Cooper Van Vranken (Ocean Data Network, Inc.)
David Bethoney (Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation)
Aubrey Church (Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation)

OCB Project Office: Heather Benway, Mai Maheigan, Mary Zawoysky