Skipper Science program is back and aims to engage fishermen as scientists

By Hannah-Marie Garcia
For The Cordova Times

Skipper Science is back for a second year! Last summer (2021) marked the pilot season for a new effort to engage fishermen as citizen scientists by encouraging participants in the program to log ecological observations and document changes in fisheries and ocean conditions. In their first season, the program received data and observations related to water temperature and weather events, seabird and marine mammal sightings, and much more. Skipper Science Partnership is getting underway again this summer, and you can get involved just by using their smartphone app for logging real time observations from the fishing grounds.

Skipper Science involves many public, private, and tribal organizations that support bringing fishermen’s voices and stories to the table with decision makers who are eager to listen. Skipper Science is an expansion of the Indigenous Sentinels Network (ISN) and the program is a collaborative effort backed by the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island tribal government, SalmonState’s Salmon Habitat Information Program, the Aleutian Bering Sea Initiative, and commercial fishing industry partners.

Heather Bauscher speaking to fisherman on the old harbor docks in Cordova (May 14, 2022) Photo by Hannah-Marie Garcia

Some of the Skipper Science team visited Cordova in May to walk the docks, get individuals signed up, answer questions, and present at the Copper River Marketing Association’s meeting.

“We were so grateful to be welcomed by the community in Cordova and have such wonderful weather while we were there,” said Heather Bauscher, from Sitka Conservation Society and collaborator with SalmonState. “And this is a really exciting time to get involved in the program because there’s a lot of opportunity to have more people involved and help guide how these partnerships form.”

Skipper Science is a data collection platform but it’s also a partnership, with collection of environmental and biological observations being just one part of the process. The second part is having dialogues and opportunities for scientists, managers, and fishermen to connect, build relationships, and recognize that the lived experiences and knowledge of fishing communities can help drive us to better decisions when it comes to fisheries management and habitat protection.

This year they are offering a prize as part of recognizing the effort communities spend reporting observations. If you sign up and log your first observation by July 1st, you will be entered to win a $500 LFS gift card. 5 winners will be announced in October. Each observation uploaded will enter your name in the drawing pool and increase your chance to win! Fishermen can sign up to participate at skipperscience.org.

Hannah-Marie Garcia is an Alaska Sea Grant Fellow with the Northern Latitudes Partnerships.