Developing a National Fisheries Data Exchange Standard

Symposium Summary

Many agencies and organizations conduct fisheries and aquatic ecology surveys that result in a wealth of data needed by research and management communities. These data could significantly advance the goals of national and regional scale initiatives if information was more readily exchanged.   Improving data exchange between the United States and our international neighbors would also improve our ability to manage fisheries resources along US borders and advance collaboration between fisheries and aquatic professionals throughout North America.  Efforts to justify the need for a fisheries data exchange standard have been made in the past, but the proposed solutions to derive and implement a standard have not been universally endorsed.  We have brought together aquatic biological data specialists to investigate and develop phase one of a national fisheries data exchange standard.  This collaboration included a preliminary review of methods and protocols currently employed by fisheries data and information managers; the identification of desirable measurements, metrics and indicators; the study of existing data warehouse schema; and the development of options for moving forward with a national scale data exchange initiative. Results of this work provide a foundation for developing a national data exchange standard that could lead to more effective management of our fisheries and aquatic resources.  This session will present the work of the data specialists over the last year and provide an opportunity for the AFS community to engage in the review process of the initial phase of the fisheries data exchange standard.


The Timing Is Right for Fisheries Data Exchange Standards

Douglas Austen, American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD

The American Fisheries Society (AFS) supports efforts to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science. To achieve this mission, there is an ever increasing need for the effective and efficient exchange of fisheries data among researchers, managers, and stakeholders. Since the 1970’s, there have been multiple publications, meetings, and symposia that document the need for standards and procedures for exchanging fisheries data to more effectively manage our fisheries and aquatic resources. To advance this issue and address the challenges that have been repeatedly identified, the AFS is a leading partner in an effort to investigate and develop a fisheries data exchange standard. As a professional society that encompasses a wide breadth of the fisheries profession, AFS can engage long-standing federal, state, and NGO partners throughout the process.  AFS will provide opportunities for outreach to the Society’s membership during development, review, and future implementation of these standards.  Improving data exchange between agencies, in the United States and elsewhere, will substantially improve our ability to manage fisheries resources across geopolitical boundaries and advance our collaboration with our professional membership base.

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Fish Data Summits: A Look Back with an Eye to the Future

Thomas Litts, Fisheries Management Section, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Social Circle, GA

The American Fisheries Society, Fisheries Information & Technology Section (FITS) and the US Geological Survey (USGS) have been working with a small group of fisheries professionals to lay the ground work for developing a National Fisheries Data Exchange Standard (NFDX). The idea to develop a NFDX is not new one; in fact three National Fisheries Data(base) Summits were hosted by different groups between 1998 and 2006. Participants in these summits represented a wide array of State and Federal agencies, non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) and private organizations. The overarching objectives of these Summits were similar and primarily directed at – you guessed it – sharing fisheries data. However, each Summit had a different approach and addressed different obstacles impeding the development of an efficient fisheries data exchange model. Seven years have passed since the last Summit, and while much has changed, the ideas and information developed during these “think tanks” provide solid guidance in moving forward with an NFDX. Key results and suggested guidance will be offered.

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Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained: Lessons Learned from the Development of a Flowing Waters Information Management System for the Great Lakes Basin

Les Stanfied, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Glenora, ON, Canada

Silvia Strobl,Regional Operations Division, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough, ON, Canada

Doug Mulholland, Computer Systems Group, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada

Collaborators in Ontario and around the Great lakes have been developing a data management system and network to facilitate sharing of ecological data for streams. This paper highlights lessons learned and directions forward.  Key lessons are that partners are willing to share data provided those who access data, also share their data, or at least contribute in some meaningful way to the collaborative approach. This tit-for-tat data sharing strategy is fundamental to sustainability of a shared system.  Database development must balance security with user needs. Systems should not be so complex that users cannot readily develop queries and so that programmer skills do not become a bottleneck.  Canned queries and reports are essential “carrots”  for partners and these should be able to be customized.  A constant challenge is managing duplicate data that has been mitigated somewhat by agreed upon sample identification rules.  It is not possible to rely on geocoordinates for this task as these changeable and vulnerable to data entry errors. The main challenge to this process is that because no one organization has a clear mandate for monitoring and therefore data management, we have yet to be successful in developing a sustainability strategy.

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Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program: Creating Data Standards and Partner Coordination

Julie M. Defilippi, Data Team, Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program, Arlington, VA

The Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program (ACCSP) is a state-federal partnership comprised of 23 partners. The ACCSP was established in 1995 through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to address deficiencies in the data that constrained fisheries management along the Atlantic coast. The Program established four basic principles to ensure that fisheries dependent statistics are complete, accurate, consistent, and compatible: 1) cooperative development and implementation across jurisdictional lines; 2) coastwide data collection standards and a single, integrated data management system; 3) data on all fishing activities (e.g., commercial, recreational, and for-hire fisheries); and 4) modular design for data collection and data management projects.  Committees of the ACCSP are responsible for setting program policies and standards, deciding annual funding allocations, overall program planning, and coordination of data collection and data management programs.  Partnership is fostered through common goals, consistent and adequate funding to meet objectives and quality stewardship of the data.  Data standards are built on a foundation of partner coordination and common objectives.  Before required fields, suggested codes and other details are discussed, it is necessary to determine data usage, storage, access, ownership, maintenance, QA/QC, etc.  Holistic spatial and temporal datasets are an excellent asset to regulatory, academic and public sectors.

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Columbia River Basin Coordinated Assessments Salmon and Steelhead Data Exchange

Jennifer M. Bayer, Pacific Northwest Aquatic Monitoring Partnership, U.S. Geological Survey, Hood River, OR

P. Brodie Cox , Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Olympia

Tom Iverson , Tom K Iverson Natural Resource Consulting, Portland, OR

Chris Wheaton , StreamNet Project, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, Portland, OR

The Coordinated Assessments Project is developing efficient, consistent, and transparent data-sharing mechanisms among co-managers (fish and wildlife agencies and Tribes) and regulatory/funding agencies in the Columbia River Basin for anadromous fish related data. The project is coordinated by the Pacific Northwest Aquatic Monitoring Partnership with support from the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission StreamNet project and involves nearly a hundred biologists and data managers across the Columbia River Basin, representing essentially all agencies and tribes with an interest in anadromous fish management and recovery.  Our initial effort focused on the development of a Data Exchange Standard (DES) for four salmon and steelhead population indicators including natural origin spawner abundance, natural origin smolt to adult return rate, and natural origin recruits (adult and juvenile) per spawner.  We are currently working to include five hatchery indicators and to implement the Coordinated Assessments Exchange (CAX) as a node on the EPA exchange network. The initial DES will expand as additional indicators are agreed upon by the participants, focusing on the indicators of highest importance to fisheries management and restoration decision makers. We believe our lessons learned and infrastructure developed for this project will be beneficial to inform exchange standards for larger scale interests.

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MARIS: 20 Years and Counting Developing Data Standards

Andrew Loftus, Loftus Consulting, Annapolis, MD

The basis for the Multistate Aquatic Resources information System (MARIS) was established more than 20 years ago by establishing the simple objective of sharing data that could lead to the evaluation of status and trends of fish populations across broad geographic and geopolitical scales.  Immediately thereafter began the task of identifying data elements, and standards for reporting those elements, that could contribute to meeting this objective.  In the decades since, these data standards have been refined to allow acquisition of data from a growing number of databases contributed by 23 states and to assist MARIS users in interpreting these data.  However, development of data standards for compiling fisheries information from existing and disparate sources may differ significantly from developing standards for data acquired through a newly initiated sampling program.  The implications of this, as well as other experiences and lessons learned from the past twenty years, will be discussed.

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How Were Your Data Collected 5, 10, 15 Years Ago?

Jacquelyn Schei, Pacific Northwest Aquatic Monitoring Partnership, Cook, WA

Jennifer M. Bayer , Pacific Northwest Aquatic Monitoring Partnership, U.S. Geological Survey, Hood River, OR

Keith Steele , Sitka Technology Group, Portland, OR

Matt Deniston , Sitka Technology Group, Portland, OR

Russell Scranton , Bonneville Power Administration, Portland, OR

Aquatic monitoring programs in the Pacific Northwest have evolved independently in response to different organizational and jurisdictional mandates and needs. To enhance efficiency and effectiveness of efforts, the Pacific Northwest Aquatic Monitoring Partnership(PNAMP) provides a forum to support collaboration and coordination. One goal of our work is identifying best practices for data management and exchange.

PNAMP coordinates development of cloud-based applications to promote recording details of monitoring programs. The suite of complementary tools,, assists practitioners with describing how, when, where and why data are collected. The goal is to allow practitioners to easily document once and share many times – greatly leveraging their information investment. Colleagues and their information systems (e.g., project tracking systems, databases, metadata repositories) can access and learn from the information. Funders and managers can review existing and proposed work and better understand gaps and overlaps in a given spatial extent.

The tools not only capture details about program implementation; they also support collaboration and data exchange. They are integrated to allow engagement in more useful planning with colleagues. In addition, long term storage will preserve yearly documentation, making it easy to find details about how data were collected or analyzed, thus facilitating data exchange efforts.

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Semantic Web Methodologies: Facilitating the Design of a National Fisheries Data Exchange Standard

Janice Gordon, Core Science Analytics, Synthesis & Libraries, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO

Andrea Ostroff , Core Science Analytics and Synthesis, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA

Fisheries and aquatic data collected through different organizations for a variety of purposes, often at local and regional levels, are all important for informing broader national and international scale management and research projects.  Creating a standard for fisheries data exchange is an important step toward enabling effective integration and reuse of these data for purposes beyond their original intent. Semantic Web methodologies and technologies are designed for the exchange and integration of heterogeneous data, and have informed the thinking behind the effort to create a national fisheries data exchange standard. By looking at Semantic Web standards and technologies, the national fisheries data exchange standard can provide benefits to the scientific community through a flexible model designed for rapidly evolving technical approaches and the ever increasing need for data of all shapes and sizes.

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Are We Heading in the Right Direction for Exchanging Fisheries Data?

Andrea Ostroff, Core Science Analytics and Synthesis, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA

Thomas Litts , Fisheries Management Section, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Social Circle, GA

Jennifer M. Bayer , Pacific Northwest Aquatic Monitoring Partnership, U.S. Geological Survey, Hood River, OR

Andrew Loftus , Loftus Consulting, Annapolis, MD

Efforts to improve data exchange among agencies and organizations that both generate and use data from fisheries and aquatic ecology surveys have been ongoing for decades.  To further the development and eventual adoption of common standards to facilitate the compatibility of core fisheries data elements is challenging, but also important to pursue in order to advance innovative science and collaboration among fisheries and aquatic professionals. Designing a standard that can accommodate evolution and change is critical for the standard to be adopted and sustained through time. Building from past efforts that have laid the groundwork for developing a national fisheries data exchange standard, a group of aquatic biological data specialists tackled questions of why we share fisheries data and what data would improve our jobs if they were broadly available and more easily exchanged.  We will present the work initiated by this group of experts that dove into these questions and the foundational approach for developing a fisheries data exchange standard. The job is big and more experts are needed to take on the work that lies ahead.  Are the steps we have taken pointing future work in the right direction to ensure progress?

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