CLS America Joins Gulf Seafood Institute as Founding Member

by / Newsroom Ink on December 9, 2014
Kelly

For Michael Kelly, vice president of sustainable marine resources at CLS America, the only way to sustainably manage Gulf fishery resources is through new technology, and he sees the Gulf Seafood Institute committed to help make this possible. Photo: CLS America

by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News Editor

For Michael Kelly, vice president of sustainable marine resources at CLS America, the only way to sustainably manage Gulf fishery resources is through new technology, and he sees the Gulf Seafood Institute (GSI) committed to help make this possible.

CLS America, GSI’s newest “Founding Member”, is a global satellite data communications company supporting all aspects of fisheries and ocean science, as well as fleet management for ocean going vessels.  It also has contracts with Homeland Security and the United States Coast Guard.

CLS“This is important and fascinating work, satellite tracking of fishing vessels, ocean conditions and endangered species,” said Kelly, the former chief of NOAA’s Partnership and Communications Division. “Biological tracking for all types of animals is all run through our company. We also track oceanography through the use of satellite buoys, like those in the Gulf that send important ocean data like sea surface temperature, ocean acidy or dissolved oxygen to customers like NOAA, as well as scientists around the globe.”

With three decades of experience, the Washington, DC area-based company has become a global leader in satellite data communication for environmental monitoring providing solutions that science counts on daily. Managing fisheries, preserving wildlife, studying climate and oceans, controlling industrial hazards, and ensuring maritime safety are key environmental challenges addressed by the company.

Real-Time Electronic Logbooks

“One of the most important areas we are currently involved with is real-time electronic logbooks,” explained Kelly about one of his company’s projects in the Gulf of Mexico. “What we are trying to do is to broaden fishing opportunities by getting critical catch data into the hands of scientists and fishery managers on a timelier basis.”

Currently most catch and seafood landing forms are aggregated and examined at the end of a fishing season. So it can take between six months to a year, and sometimes longer until NOAA has an understanding of how many fish were harvested from many Gulf fisheries.

VMS

CLS America, GSI’s newest “Founding Member”, is a global satellite data communications company supporting all aspects of fisheries and ocean science, as well as fleet management for ocean going vessels. Photo: CLS America

“We are trying to break that mold with “real time” electronic logbook information,” said Kelly, whose company is one of the few satellite vessel monitoring system (VMS) vendors approved by NOAA. “ With real-time information, at any given moment a fishery scientist or manager can log online and not only see where fishing boats are located, but know immediately how many fish are being harvested, where they are being caught and from what fishery. This “real time” information finally gives managers the data they need to manage fisheries in-season without the guess-work and estimates that still dominate fisheries management decision-making today. ”

Kelly says electronic logbooks that are currently in use in commercial fishing can be adapted to recreational fleets. “We’re involved in an exciting pilot project in the Gulf grouper and red snapper recreational fisheries. We have approximately 20 electronic satellite logbooks out on recreational fishing boats around the Gulf. They are providing the first real time recreational catch data back to NOAA,” he explained.

What this program means to recreational fishermen is that for the first time vessels are able to fish year-round against a set quota, and avoid shortened seasons, like the 2014 recreational snapper fishery. These Gulf fishermen are able to manage their business based around tourist seasons or special events, instead of being based around short and often unproductive derby-style fishing dates that have been the historic way Gulf recreational fisheries have been managed.

Fisherman Ready for Monitoring

“More and more the fishermen are saying they are ready for electronic data collection, both recreational and commercial,” Kelly said. “It makes sense from both a fisheries management point of view as well as from a business point of view. This gives fishermen instant access to all kinds of new data that was once kept on napkins or in handwritten logbooks.”

Fish Boat

“More and more the fishermen are saying they are ready for electronic data collection, both recreational and commercial,” Kelly said. Photo: CLS America

According to Kelly, the biggest stumbling block for electronic monitoring has been NOAA itself. The agency has been slow on moving away from the old paper, hand written logbooks, toward acceptance of new electronic technology to manage the fisheries.

Being able to look at fisheries in “real time” has been an enormous challenge for NOAA. So far the agency has lagged at adapting “real time” fishery solutions. The agency’s Miami-based Southeast Fisheries Science Center has been reluctant to embrace the new technology and work within a new time frame. “They are starting to slowly come onboard because of pressure coming from fishermen, state managers and scientists,” said Kelly.

Kelly says that his company’s new technology offers the most comprehensive and up to date review on what is happening in the fishery resources. Security has also been built into the system, with encrypted information sent through satellites at the time it leaves the boat, and again before leaving the satellite to NOAA servers.

“We have been doing this business for 30 years, and one of the things we have gotten very good at is security,” he explained. “Since the late 90’s when the first VMS was installed, security has always been a top priority. Never once has U.S. fisheries data ever been comprised. We are far more secure with electronic logbooks than with the old fashioned paper that was vulnerable to being lost, stolen or filled out incorrectly.”

Use of Data

What happens to data that NOAA or scientists receive?

“Because of our experience in biological tracking and oceanographic information, we can add new fishing data as layers to dynamic mapping products we have been building for years,” he explained. “For the first time ever, we have comprehensive, real-time ocean maps that show us where the fleets are, where the catch is coming from, what the current ocean conditions are, and even where tagged protected species are”.

Fish

Gulf seafood resources are the most valuable resources per pound in the country, according to the certified scuba instructor. For him, the Gulf is a very vibrant and exciting part of the world for fishery scientists economically. Photo: CLS America

Kelly became aware of the Gulf’s unique issues while a fisheries observer and later a fisheries scientist and manager at NOAA. “While there I became aware of the complex issues of the Gulf in developing recreation fisheries,” he said.

Gulf seafood resources are the most valuable resources per pound in the country, according to the certified scuba instructor. For him, the Gulf is a very vibrant and exciting part of the world for fishery scientists economically

“I got interested in the Gulf Seafood Institute because of our company’s dedication to Gulf fisheries, and our desire to make an impact to improve the way the Gulf’s resources are managed and conserved,” Kelly explained on the importance of his company becoming a “Founding Member”. “I wanted to become instrumental in finding an acceptable balance to the complex relationship between commercial and recreation fisheries in the Gulf, and knew GSI was the organization that would be at the forefront of this important issue.”

For Kelly, GSI is about advancing the management and the conservation of the incredible diverse and rich resources of the Gulf of Mexico.

“We see our role as a technology company to support GSI in getting managers and scientists a higher quality of real time data. We think our association with the institutes renown leadership will not only help our business, but also help us to become a leader in this exciting transition of being able to look at the whole Gulf in real time and being able to have the fishery information when and where it is needed,” he said. “I would definitely encourage other companies to get involved with GSI, especially other technology companies.”

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About the Author

About the Author: Ed Lallo is the former editor of Gulf Seafood News and CEO of Newsroom Ink, an online brand journalism agency. .

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