This study is a team effort. In a proactive move, longline fishermen out of Sitka brought the problem to the attention of managers and scientists. Now working on the problem, scientists are including interested longline fishermen in the process of finding answers. One of the ways fishermen are helping is through the SEAWAP Logbooks.
SEASWAP stands for Southeast Alaska Sperm Whale Avoidance Project. The core team includes ten skippers with vessels and crew who have agreed to be the eyes of the scientists while they’re at sea fishing. These fishermen keep a logbook of their sightings and interactions with sperm whales. They count the number of mutilated fish pulled off their lines and note if it looks like sperm whale depredation. The logbook includes pertinent information about their gear and fishing activities, including vessel type, hull type, electronics used and hydraulic system. The fishermen also photograph individual whales and their interactions using weatherproof cameras and film provided by the study. The logbook pages are collected after each fishing trip and summarized into a report by Linda Behnken, director of the Association of Longline Fisherman’s Association and passed on to the researchers.
In addition to the logbooks, participating fisherman are also part of a communications network, radioing the project base station when whales are sighted off Kruzof or Chichagof islands. And when possible, the fishermen collect residual fish parts, if depredation occurs at the surface, and the sloughed skin of sperm whales, if the opportunity arises, using study-issued long handled dip nets.
Team members completed training in photography and data collection, and are compensated for their time and effort.