Mar 3, 2013

Fishermens' Forum 2013. The Fisher-Mappers

When I got to  the Maine fishermen's forum Saturday afternoon the folks from the Northeast Regional Ocean Council's  Fisheries Mapping Project had just finished with their presentations and talks.  I talked to them about making a game, as you read below.

NROC is  a voluntary forum for New England states and federal agencies formed in 2005. It self describes as " a state and federal partnership that facilitates the New England states, federal agencies, regional organizations, and other interested regional groups in addressing ocean and coastal issues that benefit from a regional response, and focuses on  Ocean and Coastal Ecosystem Health , on Coastal Hazards Resilience and on Ocean Planning

 Fishers fish in different locations in different  seasons as the animals' behavior require, as weather and climate mandates, as markets expand and contract and as regulators tighten or loosen restrictions on the boats and crews. THe Fisheries Mapping Project was documenting the fishermens's travels upon the waters.

The hangers-on after the close of the NROC event include some fisheries leaders and fisheries consultants (George Lapointe, former Maine Marine Resources Commissioner was there, as "George Lapointe, Consultant" his name tag affirmed).  Also there,  the ones doing the actual mapping: members of  the marine-eco-data-nerd community that ,like George, had the fortune to be funded to map the movements of fishing boats catching and either releasing, incarcerating or slaying different vertebrates and invertebrates in different locations in different  seasons. 

What variables they pondered! An unstable climate, markets expanding and contracting like the bells of jellyfish and the regulatory tightening and loosing  of  restrictions on those boats, from scallopers to groundfishers. More!

In the meeting room, 3 foot by 4 foot bathymetric charts of the Gulf of Maine were laid on tables, with  fishermen with erasable pens leaning over them and  drawing lines correcting or crossing out the routes already on the map.  

I struck up a chat with ex Commissioner Lapointe, and the other consultants and academics there, and told them they need to assemble a Gulf of Maine computer game, punch in all the geo data of the Gulf's sea mounts deep canyons, etc  for the seascape, then  drape  animated biological and ecological data  atop that. 

Then, let the games begin! The players' avatars are limited  any of the hundreds of wild species that live or atop to f the GOM. One could be a swordfish soaring over Jeffrey's ledge, and ,running up upon another player whose avatar is a school of herring, wreak great mayhem! One could be a biofilm of co2-noshing marine bacteria, and ponder whether or not to reach a quorum to raise or lower atmospheric CO2 levels, and make those multicelled  two legger big shots  squirm for solutions.  You could be  a marine amoeba struggling to survive the savage forays of freshly hatched  and hungry cod larvae  - or be the cod larvae herself! Or a harp seal Or a humpback whale

But  mostly, it didn't compute. For alas, these info nerds at the NROC meeting  are still sorta  flat earthers. For them, marine data is to be shown as static slides, one after another after another.  Is it any wonder that today's kids aren't racing to get into ocean life conservation  - though their and all our lives depend on it?  

That's what I told them anyway and it may be a few of them actually "got it". I told them that if one of them wants  to get rich they will commission  and design such a game - being sure the wildlife  fights and gore is at suitably graphic levels, sufficiently bloody  to entertain today's young people. Sigh..If that's the only way to get the kids out into the wild world of the undersea Gulf of Maine, then, so be it!


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