Filled out my SWHS
This is the 4th time I've been sent a Statewide Harvest Survey in the past 4 decades. Nerdy types like me sort of like filling out this kind of stuff, so I do it happily. And if it really helped ADFG in its mission, submitting it is the least I can do for all the enjoyment derived from my Alaska fishing trip.
It was a pretty straightforward task to complete for 2014 as I had only ONE trip to ONE location to report on. 29 blanks to fill out on one line of survey. Done in less than 10 minutes.
I realize the SWHS has been the backbone of estimating total recreational harvest for as long as I can remember. But technology as taken a quantum leap past the turn of the century. It seems this survey could be done more efficiently, accurately and with less cost.
The survey packet is snail-mailed out in a large 8 x 11 envelope. The SWHS booklet is 12 pages long. A double-sided sheet to aid in species identification is included in the packet to help folks figure out what they caught. A 24 page map index is also included in the packet to help folks figure out where they caught their fish/shellfish. Of course all of this is sent out months after the fishing has occurred, and the data collected is entirely predicated on the participant's memory. For most folks, I'd bet it comes down to a "best guess". When they're done recollecting and recording their trip, ADFG provides a large 8 x 11 post-paid return envelope.
That's a pretty dam big investment to get back ten minutes and one line's worth of data.
You figure they must put out several thousand of these each year. All that printing, collating, assembling, mailing, receiving, and data entry can't be cheap to administer. There's definitely room for tremendous error in participants accurately recalling their catch and harvest by species and location months after the fact....as well as room for transcription error on the part of the data entry staff once the survey is returned to ADFG.
Seems like they could put together a more accurate on-line version that could be filled out electronically in real-time.... or at least a helluva lot closer to real-time than the paper survey. License sales could even be set up so that for example every 5th license number issued by ADFG is also issued a statement that the angler has been chosen to participate in the on-line creel survey. That angler would at least have a heads up that they should pay closer tabs to their catch and retention stats for the season. Or even give an option for daily recording of their catch where the program automatically tallies their season total once they indicate they are done fishing for the year. Rewards/prizes could also be offered up to incentivize participation in the creel survey.
Just kind of thinking out loud on the keyboard as to how those SWHS dollars might be put to better use.
What do you think?
"Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone."
The KeenEye MD
That sir is Job Security of our "leaders" , they stay up nights thinking up ways to spend our money for report results that are most often never considered in their decision making.
Gerberman, I'm not sure where you get your information, but the survey information is used quite extensively by ADFG for management purposes and decision-making.
fishNphysician, the survey has to work for the rest of us who fish Alaska year-round in several state-wide locations for several species. Unlike you, I find the survey barely has room for all of my fishing. It takes me about an hour to fill out. The survey allows managers to get some very extensive info from me in a variety of fisheries and locations - an investment well-spent. I learned a long time ago that I'm a better fishermen when I keep a log/calendar of my fishing excursions (where, when, success, etc.). Not just for future reference, but it's easy to refer to that when filling out the survey.
FYI, the survey isn't intended to be super accurate - it provides an estimate that is used in conjunction with other data and formulas to achieve final harvest data that has a high confidence interval.
Computer access might be nice. But in my opinion it would lop out and frustrate a lot of fishermen who aren't savvy at filling out on-line forms. I like hard copies myself. So rather than ADFG putting money into a new SWHS system, I'd like to see them use the money for much needed studies and projects. Perhaps better use of SWHS dollars might be to not send the survey to guys who only fish one time - you know, a better bang for the buck.
Good thread Doc.
I don't fish as often as many, but I don't keep any logs and would probably have a hard time recalling when, where, and what over the last year of fishing. You know, because I've caught soooooo many...... I don't recall ever getting a statewide survey.
Doc, the only thing I woulds say is that if one knew he/she was going to be sent a harvest survey beforehand, it would likely alter behavior in an unknown way.
All of the comments above are valid and what it takes is someone who can sit down and meld them together. I agree with Doc that with technology one can enter data immediately upon ending a fishing trip via a smart phone. The next generation is going that way and probably will throw a maiil survey away. Technology allows lots of data to be gathered by citizens. Just look at Cornell University eBird program. Sightings are entered into an international system immediately after a trip and literally hundreds of thousands of observations have led to great scientific information. ADF&G needs to come into this world via contracts with groups like Cornell that have done this and do not need a large learning curve.
In addition, for those who are not computer friendly some other form of survey is needed. That could be in a registration process at the time of license sales. One could check a box on how one prefers to get information. It is done all the time in the business world.
So there are good options. I think organizations in State government have a hard time adapting because of budget, personnel rules, and just the comfortable feeling we have done it this way and it works. But there is so much more than can be gathered via today's technology. Innovation in this area is unbelievable in the other fields of science and at universities. ADF&G should take advantage of that.
Type in eBird on google or go to http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/
So far this month 21,000 observations have been made on bird counts and distribution from bird watchers around the United States. The power of citizens working together is impressive. Of course us bird watchers are not fighting over who gets to kill the last Arctic tern.
Hmmm... Leave no tern unstoned... Don't quite think that was what you meant, but resistance is low.
I get a survey about every other year. Easy to complete with paper. I suspect the programming costs for an electronic one would be pretty substantial, with a payout via reduced printing, mailing and date entry over many years. Will continue to complete and return however it is done.
Because its expensive. Not just to implement, but to maintain and upkeep (both hard & software). Software of all sorts is always becoming obsolete or needing to be upgraded. Do you develop the software in house (which can cause problems down the road), or outsource it to some existing developer (which can cause a different set of problems down the road). Making the legacy database they currently have talk to something new could just be expensive, or impossible...
But ADF&G is working on some online reporting.
The programers I work with just roll their eyes every time a non-tech person says "well cant you just add" or " couldn't we also include"... its always more, and more complicated, without having any idea what they are asking, or providing the money to properly develop it... For too many, technology = magic..
Yes but you have to admit that technology is magical in many ways. At some point State agencies have to come into the real world and make the commitment on costs and personnel. I know right now that there are data sitting on floppy discs in the Soldotna office from the 1980's and no one is transferring that data or reports to today's programs. So with each passing year the backlog gets bigger and bigger.
Originally Posted by Jomama
Also, I think some universities that have citizen science programs would be happy to adapt their programs to a new use given some incentive to do so - which may be direct payment or the chance to start something that would lead to widespread use and future grant funds.
I have thought about the eBird program and could see it transfer very easily. One could just put in a species list of fish and it would be up and running for keeping individual records. I enter my bird sightings after every trip along with thousands around the country. I know some like log books and they have a historical and treasured place in some of our hearts but kids these days do not have that experience.
Just a side note. When one is trying to tell someone where a bird is in a tree one can use the clock face to point it out. So the top of the tree is 12 and bottom 6. However, when young kids go out some have never seen a clock face - all digital in their world.
With shrinking budgets, and more work than people can handle (particularly the programers), it absolutely is not that the agency doesn't want upgrades..
Originally Posted by Nerka
I'm sure its easy from the perspective of someone entering basic data... There are still huge costs behind it, from obtaining software (good specialized software is not typically free), to server space, to upkeep, to backwards compatibility (ADF&G already has massive dbase's, are they going to maintain two separate dbase now, or figure out how to add the legacy data to the new dbase?), to the web interface and design... Its expensive and takes time to develop.
Originally Posted by Nerka
I get data in spread sheets and no matter what we do to lock down the options, people see things differently, and enter data (I'm talking professionals here) differently.. There are many ways a person can enter geographic positional data.. MTRS, Decimal Degrees, Decimal Minutes, Degrees-Minutes-Seconds... Oh, and what datum are they in.. NAD27? NAD83? WGS84? I have a way to upload the data from the spreadsheets to a dbase, and it consistently doesn't work because of data formats. So you have to develop intelligent databases that can deal with variations in data entry by a untrained public... There is absolutely nothing easy or cheap about that..
There are still some advantages to have a small group of data entry tech's who can review the data during data entry to review for errors and make formats consistent.
I am very aware of the costs behind data entry. I guess what I am trying to convey is that data management and control and innovation is not a top priority of ADF&G in the budget and thinking. Most of the leadership is not of the technical generation and thus have a bias against new and innovative thinking. I am not taking issue with the lower level staff who are trying to do the best they can but with budget priorities that put this along with long term research near the bottom of the list. This is a multi-billion dollar industry and should have the resources commensurate with that value.
Originally Posted by Jomama
Past Administrations have no trouble cutting ADF&G budget and will again this year but when it comes to oil companies and taxes no problem. Lets just write off billions and yet by the States own statistics the commercial fishing industry is worth 5.9 billion and 78,000 jobs and the sport fishing industry is adds to this. So why run on a shoestring when this fishing industry is critical to the long term health of the State? Makes no sense to me.
I just disagree that its a luddites in leadership problem, but the same issue I see in the preceding posts. No understanding of the complexity of technology, no attention span for actual time it takes to develop new resources, and not enough $bread$ to go around for the latest and greatest all the time..
I do not think you are giving enough credit to people and their understanding of technology. Some of us have developed programs from beginning to end and know the issues. For example, in 1980 the local office just got computers and all the catch data was in folders. The local biologist was only using the last three years of data because he was doing the calculations by hand. I and others said this was nuts and contracted to have tech support to write a catch summary program. Yes it took time and effort but the program evolved over time to a very useful tool.
Originally Posted by Jomama
However, getting money for development and refinement was a constant issue, especially in 1985 when oil went to less than 10 dollars a barrel. Maybe I am jaded but I just do not see the innovation today given the resources out there to improve technical abilities of the department. Money is not an issue if it is a priority. For example, the Legislature spent 800,000 on a worthless chinook tagging project, give 2 million dollars to the valley without a clue how it will be spent, and is funding a test fish program in the northern part of the inlet all for political reasons. If the leadership would have spoken against these projects and pushed for more dollars in the technological arena the issues you mentioned could be eliminated or reduced. I do not see the State leading in this area at all. Maybe you can give me an example of where the State is leading as opposed to following behind the rest of the country relative to citizen science programs, public awareness and transparency, modeling or run reconstruction, raw data availability to other scientist, ...
I agree this takes dollars but it also takes leadership to start the process. We may have to agree to disagree.
How bout an Iphone harvest log app? It could record date and location of catch automatically.
The state I live in started asking for email address when people were submitting license applications; some people gave our G&F their email addresses some did not. If you submitted your email address then you receive an email with a link to the harvest survey and you can complete in online. It takes about half the time or less of filling out a hard copy. The G&F dept. saves $2 to $3 dollars per response if you can receive your survey via email notification.
If our G&F dept. can do it then I would think most other departments could do it.