NOAA Works to Improve Fisheries Data Quality

NOAA Fisheries today announced that it is undertaking a coordinated effort to improve the quality, usefulness, timeliness, and delivery of data collected from the fishing industry used in its science and management. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI), Portland, Maine, in partnership with the School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST), Dartmouth, Massachusetts, will help NOAA Fisheries by conducting a survey of external data users and others interested in contributing to improving our data systems.

NOAA Fisheries collects a variety of information from fishing vessels and seafood dealers such as fishing location, gear type used, area fished, landings, bycatch, ex-vessel price, operational costs, and catch sampling, which is used for management and scientific tasks including estimating fish stock abundance and setting fishing quotas.

“We created our existing data reporting and monitoring systems over many years to support fishery management measures as they were developed,” said John Bullard, regional administrator, Northeast, NOAA Fisheries. “But as management plans and requirements have evolved, we’ve seen an increased demand for finer scale and more timely information. We recognize that our data systems need to improve to accommodate that demand.”

This fall, NOAA Fisheries established an internal working group to begin to explore what improvements can be made to existing data collection and management systems. With the help of the GMRI and SMAST, NOAA Fisheries hopes to learn more about data needs from various user groups and explore better ways to compile and deliver that data.

Bill Karp, science and research director, NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center, said that working with external partners and the fishing industry is key to improving information gathered on the fisheries. “These data underlie everything from abundance estimates to quota setting and management. It is critical that what we use is accurate, current, and available as quickly as possible,” he said.

Over the next several months, interviews will be conducted throughout the region with NOAA Fisheries scientists and managers, state fishery management agencies, regional fishery management councils and commissions, vessel operators, dealers, commercial fishing organizations, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions.

“Through our outreach, we want to emphasize to fishermen and dealers that understanding how they collect, report, and use information is central to improving NOAA’s data system. Ultimately, timely and accurate data will help them with their own business planning and fishery operations,” said Jonathan Labaree, GMRI’s Director of Community Initiatives. “Along with collecting information from data users, we hope to explore new monitoring and data collection models for the fishing and seafood industries that are developed with their input and tested in the real-world environment.”

As various aspects of this review effort are completed, results will be shared publicly via NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute websites,, and