FishforLife will be launched in early 2016 as a national project to improve the knowledge base and stewardship of our recreational fishery resources. The project will raise awareness about the status of target species, the value of MPAs and best fishing practices and gather new data for the sector. The project facilitates countrywide collaboration between the scientific community, the recreational angling community and ocean enthusiasts in order to capture and collate recreational angling data, record species sightings and collect historical species images. The specific FishforLife project objectives are:
1) To establish a network of active citizen scientists by providing opportunities for recreational anglers to improve data bases and knowledge of the stock and conservation status of recreationally targeted fish species.
2) To raise awareness about threatened linefish species, drawing from the IUCN global and National Redlists, and the role of MPAs in protecting these species. Threated linefish species likely to receive focused attention in the project include:
Critically endangered: the Dageraad Chrysoblephus cristiceps and the Seventy-four Polysteganus undulosus. It is anticipated that following the re-introduction of fishing pressure on Red Steenbras Petrus rupestris this species is likely to fall within this category if re-assessed.
Endangered: Draft assessments indicate that Silver kob, Argyrosomus inodorus and Dusky kob, Argyrosomus japonicas are likely to join Red Stumpnose Chrysoblephus gibbiceps, and White Steenbras Lithognathus lithognathus on the endangered species category.
Vulnerable: Draft assessments indicate that Squaretail kob Argyrosomus thorpei is likely to be added to other species in this category which currently includes Riverbream Acanthopagrus vagus, Poenskop Cymatoceps nasutus, Scotsman P olysteganus praeorbitalis, and White stumpnose, Rhabdosargus globiceps.
3) To inspire anglers to contribute information on species defined as “data deficient”. Examples of popular recreational species that are data deficient include bonefish, santer and several kingfish species.
4) To empower recreational anglers to improve fishing practices through access to an expanded knowledge base.
5) To provide a comprehensive platform to pilot innovative recreational catch data monitoring systems and assessment and conservation of linefish species in South Africa. This platform could provide a basis for future projects.
FishforLife Citizen Science components
There are three sub-projects through which recreational angling data will be captured: CatchReport, Fishtory and the Sea Fish Atlas. These three platforms will be nestled under a central FishforLife website that allows recreational fishers and scientists to engage. The central website will also be a portal for feedback to citizen scientists on current, relevant and engaging information and news regarding the recreational fishing sector and the FishforLife project.
As well as capturing organised data from fishing competitions, CatchReport will allow individual anglers to log their social fishing catches. A mobile version is being investigated which would allow fishermen to log their catches anywhere, anytime. CatchReport will also allow recreational fishers to access their stored catch data and view their previous fishing activities, acting like an online log book.
Sea Fish Atlas:
This project has already been initiated and is running through the iSpot website that allows citizen scientists to submit observations in the form of photographs with date and location. This platform is already being used to contribute to a National Fish Atlas driven by SANBI with the aim of mapping marine fish distribution in South Africa.
Members of the public are encouraged to provide their historical fishing photos and angler diaries. This information, when combined with catch records from magazine and newspaper articles, will be used to develop a historical database of measurements such as typical catch size and distribution. Ultimately, Fishtory will provide unique insights into the past that will help managers secure the future of our fish.