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

Save the Date: Jan 18-20, 2023 (Woods Hole, MA)

This 3-day scoping workshop will initiate 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 will provide 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. If you are interested in remaining informed about this workshop (e.g., receiving notification when registration opens), please fill out the brief expression of interest form (this doesn’t commit you to attend).

The workshop will provide 15 honorary stipends of $500 to fishing community participants.


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.

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.

Fisheries BGC Obs Flyer jan 2022

Download the printable flyer above 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