A floating cod pot serves as a backdrop for a reflection on the 'GEARNET experience'
Surrounded by gear and project results posters from GEARNET projects, around 30 attendees gathered last weekend with GEARNET project leaders at the Maine Fishermen's Forum to hear an overview of results from the 35 GEARNET projects that have been developed since 2010. Details on gillnet results were also presented followed by a discussion on lessons-learned and overall contribution of the project more broadly to efforts to improve and support the fishing industry's capacity to adapt to a changing world.
It was during this part of the program, a sort of round-table review of the 'GEARNET experience', when some of the most compelling discussion took place. Several attendees commented on the positive impression the project has made with fishermen who have traditionally steered clear of collaborative research. This feedback confirms an emerging realization of some of the most important contributions of the project: The bottom-up approach works. By initiating projects on the dock and supporting ideas that begin on the water, GEARNET has tapped in to the potential of broad industry involvement and engagement by beginning, developing, executing, and synthesizing results based in a network of fishermen, gear manufacturers, scientists and managers.
Adam Baukus, gear scientist from GMRI added, "The GEARNET model also seems to be an improvement from the way things used to be done by being able to respond quickly to challenges fishermen are facing today." Prior to GEARNET, ideas for gear research often began in the office of a gear scientists to be developed into a proposal that might be funded 6 months to a year later. Results might be available well over a year afterwards, and would be presented in a journal article that may never be read by a fisherman.
That is not to say that the GEARNET model is perfect, and certainly there are lessons to be learned moving forward - but initial feedback seems to point toward strong signals of success and growing interest and value in the GEARNET, bottom-up approach for collaborative research.
This was the first of a series of port-side meetings scheduled throughout the region over the next month and a half to discuss GEARNET results.
To schedule a meeting, fishermen are encouraged to look over the following 'menu' of topics and to contact Erik Chapman at NH Sea Grant/UNH Cooperative Extension to find out the meeting schedule or to schedule a meeting: