Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Report
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 7373
Title: Fishery research and development of technology at the Northwest fisheries center (role, purpose, and contribution)
Author/Editor: George K. Tanonaka
Year: 1975
Institution: Northwest Fisheries Center Processed Report, April 1975. National Marine Fisheries Service.  Seattle, Washington
Date: 1975

There is little understanding or appreciation of federal fishery research and its benefits in the United States.  Neither the products of our research nor their values are well known.  This report examines the causes underlying this deficient condition and outlines some of the steps being taken at the Northwest Fisheries Center, National Marine Fisheries Service to correct this deficiency.  The presentation of some selected examples on practical benefits from our research as well as contributions we have made to the advancement of science is a small step in the direction of evaluating research and benefits and informing people of its values.  Some examples of practical benefits are:

  1. Development of commercial fisheries on king crab and shrimp in the northeast Pacific Ocean and enhanced angling success by sport fishermen on Lake Washington sockeye salmon from our resource surveys
  2. Commercial application of fishing technology developed at the Center such as midwater trawl, universal trawl, deepwater trawl, sablefish pot, etc.
  3. Protection of North American salmon and southeastern Bering Sea king crab through stock assessment studies
  4. Development of an industry around salmon aquaculture
  5. Substantial savings by water resource development agencies in fishway construction costs based on our information on improved fishway designs
  6. Protection of salmonids from thermal pollution in the Columbia River

Unfortunately, information on such benefits has been retained to date by researchers primarily in the form of non-documented experiences.  This is largely a result of our inability to evaluate and translate them into social or practical terms.

A hypothesis developed in this report is consumers of fishery products and the general public seldom benefit directly from fishery research.  Our information must first be accepted and applied by others such as fishermen, processors, management agencies, etc., before benefits such as stable product prices, a broader range and supply of fishery products, product quality, etc., can eventually accrue to these clients (consumers and the general public).  Therefore, most people are not aware of what fishery research is about or its resulting practical benefits.

A basic cause underlying our deficiency in properly planning for and evaluating, documenting, and effectively communicating our research and benefits in practical terms is the narrow technical perspective maintained by federal fishery research groups.  Simply put, we can say that application of our research findings may lead to an increased availability of "X" numbers of pounds of fish to a fishery, but showing what it means in terms of, say, potential employment, increased earnings, consumer welfare, etc. and seeing if these were indeed accomplished, is beyond your current perspective and capability.  In reality, these practical terms are those by which our processes in problem identification and definition, and research planning should also be framed but that which we have not carried out effectively.

The development and maintenance of our narrow technical perspective is a result of academic training, organizational norms, tradition, and professionalism.  Background and capabilities in the social sciences (in economics, sociology, political science, communication, etc.) needed to broaden our perspectives and thus, help in part to correct the deficient condition evident today have not been formally developed at research centers and laboratories.

It is recommended that capabilities in the social sciences be developed at the technical (field) level of the National Marine Fisheries Service where program planning and program impacts take place.  The training of people in the social sciences is an investment which should be undertaken by each research center or m