Citizen science offers a potentially cost-effective way for researchers to obtain large data sets over large spatial scales. However, it is not used widely to support biological data collection for fisheries stock assessments. Overfishing of demersal fishes along 1,000 km of the west Australian coast led to restrictive management to recover stocks.
This diminished opportunities for scientists to cost-effectively monitor stock recovery via fishery-dependent sampling, particularly of the recreational fishing sector. As fishery-independent methods would be too expensive and logistically-challenging to implement, a citizen science program, Send us your skeletons (SUYS), was developed.
SUYS asks recreational fishers to voluntarily donate fish skeletons of important species from their catch to allow biological data extraction by scientists to produce age structures and conduct stock assessment analyses.
During SUYS, recreational fisher involvement, sample sizes and spatial and temporal coverage of samples have dramatically increased, while the collection cost per skeleton has declined substantially.
SUYS is ensuring sampling objectives for stock assessments are achieved via fishery-dependent collection and reliable and timely scientific advice can be provided to managers. The program is also encouraging public ownership through involvement in the monitoring process, which can lead to greater acceptance of management decisions.