Combining Fishermen's Knowledge and Statistical Analysis to Understand Habitat Usage of Atlantic Halibut in the Gulf of Maine

Monday, September 9, 2013: 4:00 PM
Fulton (Statehouse Convention Center)
Julia Beaty , School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME
Yong Chen , School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME
James A. Wilson , School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME
After a brief period of commercial fishing, Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) populations in the western North Atlantic collapsed in the late 19th century, prior to collection of any significant scientific data on this species. Because of this early collapse, little information is available on the life history, stock structure, and habitat usage of halibut in the Gulf of Maine. This information is critical for setting appropriate regulations for the fishery, which persists at a limited scale in Maine state waters. To address this critical knowledge gap, we compiled the best existing scientific data to identify and quantify key environmental variables influencing the spatial distribution of halibut in the Gulf of Maine.  We then performed rigorous statistical analyses and combined these results with fishermen’s knowledge, as provided during in-person interviews. Information provided by fishermen serves as both a verification of and a complement to the statistical analysis, providing insights which could not have been obtained from scientific data alone. We utilize a novel approach to understanding habitat preferences by incorporating fishermen's knowledge with scientific data, an approach which is often cited as advantageous, yet is seldom achieved. Our study provides much needed ecological information for developing a sustainable fishery.