During a night fishing trip in the summer of 2010, I experienced many of the reasons fishermen mentioned for considering dogfish a “nuisance”, including interference with fishing, their hardiness, and their lack of predators. Near the beginning of the trip, one spiny dogfish was caught by an angler in the front of the boat. Before I could take a picture of it, another was caught by another angler near the back of the boat. Moments later, most anglers along the side of the boat caught spiny dogfish. At first, some of the anglers were surprised excited to have caught a shark, but quickly became annoyed. Their spines are difficult to deal with when trying to throw them back. When some anglers stepped on dogfish before throwing them back, dogfish sank upside down, and nothing came to eat them, at least near the surface. Because customers kept catching dogfish, we had to move to another location.
Working with community partners in the fishing industry and state government enabled me to ask more relevant questions, questions that may help inform dogfish management. My research illustrated the value of fishermen’s local knowledge, and provided specific recommendations to incorporate this knowledge into future management of spiny dogfish. While navigating networks of people can be challenging without the years of experience a professional might have, community partners were extremely helpful in terms of providing contacts and references.
To make the most of engaged research, I would suggest attending as many meetings and conferences related to your topic as possible. At the Northeast Fish and Wildlife Conference, for instance, I was able to talk to other researchers about their work, which helped me make more complete recommendations at the end of my project. Going to regional and state fisheries meetings helped me understand what the impacts of my recommendations could be.