SFU research team designs software to aid decision-making for fisheries managers
A research team involving Simon Fraser University scientists has developed software designed to aid the decision-making of fisheries managers.
“Managers of Pacific salmon typically need to make decisions about trade-offs among different objectives,” says Randall Peterman, an SFU professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management (REM) and co-creator of Vismon, a free and downloadable software tool.
“Vismon supports this process by providing a flexible, interactive way for managers to explore the complex quantitative results that fisheries scientists produce with their simulation models."
Graduate student Maryam Booshehrian wrote the code to implement the idea as part of her master’s thesis in the School of Computing Science.
Features of Vismon include sensitivity analysis, comprehensive and global trade-offs analysis, and a staged approach to the visualization of the uncertainty in forecasts of simulation models.
The tool was refined through a multi-year engagement with fisheries scientists, some of whom have used Vismon to communicate with policy makers, says Torsten Möller, a computing science professor on the team.
Peterman says salmon fisheries managers in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region of Alaska plan to use Vismon starting this summer, alongside their existing methods, to help them decide which of many management options to choose during the salmon fishing season.
“Managers can alter the duration of commercial and subsistence harvesting and the number of fish that are allowed to spawn,” he says. “However, managers must choose which combination of those factors to allow, based on their predicted effects on indicators of multiple objectives that often conflict.”
Among the indicators are the number of salmon caught by commercial and subsistence fishermen, spawner abundance, the variability in those numbers across years, uncertainty in those numbers, and the chance that those numbers will drop below some acceptable level.
“Vismon helps to visualize and quantify the trade-offs among the objectives, leading to a more informed decision.”
Peterman says Vismon is easily adaptable to other situations and it is being explored for use in central North America as well.
The software recently received international praise at the prestigious Eurographics Conference on Visualization (EuroVis) earning an award for second best paper.
Vismon was developed as part of a grant funded by SFU’s Community Trust Endowment Fund (CTEF), with some additional funding from the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association.
The project is a collaborative effort involving Peterman, Booshehrian and Möller of SFU's Climate Change Impacts Research Consortium (CCIRC) and Tamara Munzner of UBC's Department of Computer Science.
According to The Canadian Press, sockeye salmon spawning on rivers and streams have been producing dramatically fewer adults in Washington state, British Columbia, and southeastern Alaska.
"In one example, the Fraser River's early Stuart sockeye run dropped to about three adults for every spawning sockeye by the mid-2000s, compared to 20 adults per spawner in the 1960s," said Peterman.