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New website gives fishermen additional tools to navigate

Flaxen Conway, a media consultant, left, and Ted Strub show off Seacast.org, a website for fishermen. It displays forecasts for ocean conditions such as surface temperature, salinity and wave height. (Tiffany Woods, Oregon Sea Grant)
By Tiffany Woods, Oregon Sea Grant, Friday, October 5, 2018

A new tool for commercial fishermen aims to make predicting what happens on the water as easy as looking up a weather forecast.

An interactive online map, where fishermen can check forecasts for ocean conditions in Northwest waters, is available at nvs.nanoos.org/Seacast. It’s on the website of the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems, a partnership that gathers and disseminates data on the ocean.

The new site is the culmination of multiple years of research based on conversations with fishermen.

Talks started in 2012, when Colin Duncan, an Oregon State University graduate student, asked fishermen about their needs. He met with NANOOS scientists to learn about their work.

His research, which was published in his thesis, laid the foundation for the creation of Seacast.org, an experimental site that displays forecasts for sea conditions such as wave height and surface currents.

After Duncan graduated, undergraduate computer science students in OSU’s College of Engineering added more features to the site.

In 2016, Oregon Sea Grant provided funding that allowed OSU graduate student Jessica Kuonen to advance the project. The funding also allowed researchers to leverage money from Oregon Space Grant and the National Science Foundation.

Seacast.org will eventually be taken offline as more fishermen get accustomed to the NANOOS site, said Ted Strub, an OSU oceanographer who led the project.

“It was always the plan for the experimental site to be transitioned to a more permanent site,” he said.

Kuonen aimed to understand how fishermen use ocean forecasts to make decisions, why scientists provide the data they do in forecasts, and how both groups perceive risk and uncertainty regarding ocean conditions.

Kuonen, who graduated in marine resource management in 2018, interviewed 11 captains, four fishermen’s wives and one industry representative. She also spoke with 17 scientists and managers from academic institutions and government agencies that provide weather forecasts and oceanographic data.

Results indicated that more useful forecasts for ocean conditions could be created if data providers and the fishermen who use that information were to work together.

“The future of enhancing the usefulness of ocean condition forecasts ultimately lies with the data provider and end-user communities and their willingness to cooperate,” she wrote in her thesis. “The genesis for this type of engagement could be cooperative research, where fishermen collect observations from the ocean environment and provide feedback to help validate and improve the models.”


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