Written by Makayla Johnson, Volunteer Intern
Most commercial lingcod fishermen use trawl nets to capture lingcod along the Washington coast. The main problem with this fishing method is that trawl nets are notorious for capturing unintended species of fish while scraping the sea floor at the same time.
The unintended capture of species through fishing is called bycatch. Bycatch has impacts to the environment and to economics. Unfortunately, most of the bycatch end up dying before they can be put back in the ocean. Also, if lingcod fishermen catch too many recovering overfished species as bycatch, their fishery can be shut down by the government.
The Nature Conservancy has teamed up with The University of Washington and lingcod fishermen in Ilwaco to invent a new fishing pot that protects habitat and sea creatures. They did this by observing the behavior of the Lingcod and designing a fishing pot that catches lingcod, with minimal if not any- bycatch. The fishing pot also has minimal impacts to the seafloor.
Every year, the Seattle Aquarium hosts a "Discover Science" weekend where federal, state and other non-governmental environmental organizations come up with fun outreach activities to educate the public on all of the cool science that they are doing. Each organization creates outreach materials to engage people of all ages from 2-100! The public is invited to walk through the aquarium and talk with the different organizations about their science research.
As an intern at The Nature Conservancy, I had the opportunity to work with the marine team and TNC volunteers at the Aquarium to present TNC’s lingcod pot project! We worked hard to get ready for the day. We created poster boards with information about the project, retrieved video footage of the pots in action from fishermen, and developed an outreach activity for the children. Working at the booth was fantastic! At the event, it was awesome to interact with the smaller children with the game we made to demonstrate how the lingcod pots work, and talk with their parents about how TNC and the University of Washington is helping to advance the technology of the fishermen for a cleaner catch. We saw a total of 5,218 visitors through our doors over the two days, 3,185 of them the first day and 2,033 the second day.