Fishing for analytical insights off the coast of North Carolina

Alan Bianchi has a whole lot of fish to count – we’re talking tens of millions. The Commercial Statistics Coordinator for the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) keeps track of the commercial fish harvest in the state’s 300-mile stretch of Atlantic waters. The data that his program collects is used to help manage the fisheries along coastal North Carolina for commercial and recreational use.

We couldn’t do this in Excel. It just can’t hold the data. SAS has a lot of power and utility, especially with large and cumbersome data sets that have observations across many different variables and many different formats.

Alan Bianchi
Commercial Statistics Coordinator

The commercial segment alone accounts for nearly 2.4 billion pounds of fish recorded in the NCDMF Trip Ticket Database. Another database holds 10 million records that describe the types and sizes of fish that both commercial and recreational anglers pull from the water.

Bianchi and biologist Stephanie McInerny use SAS® to answer thousands of requests each year for analytical information and to provide state-mandated reports.

“We couldn’t do this in Excel,” Bianchi says. “It just can’t hold the data. SAS has a lot of power and utility, especially with large and cumbersome data sets that have observations across many different variables and many different formats.”

Keeping waters open to fishing

The NCDMF has twice quelled federal concerns that could have closed areas rich in blueline tilefish and smooth dogfish.

Federal agencies were eager to close off a large portion of the deep water areas off the North Carolina coastline to protect grouper species. This area was also rich in blueline tilefish. “We were able to show that the proposed closure area had no grouper landings. In addition, we could show that closing these fisheries would cause financial hardship.’’

When a catch limit was recommended for smooth dogfish, Bianchi’s group was once again able to show the economic impact and argue that there wasn’t enough data on smooth dogfish to warrant such a limitation.

“We routinely work with our peers in our neighboring states, and using SAS allows us to combine our data to do stock assessments that span more than just state borders. Our statistical efforts have strengthened the agency’s relationship with the state’s fishing community.”

Securing state and federal dollars

Bianchi’s work helped commercial fishermen recover losses in 1999 when flooding from Hurricane Floyd halted crabbing, shrimping and other vital fishing operations.

“We were allocated state funds to disburse to the commercial fishing industry for their potential losses,” Bianchi says. “And we were also able to show who qualified for aid when federal dollars became available for fishermen hurt by foreign trade.”

Delivering information to the public

Bianchi says SAS makes it easy for him to get information onto the Web and into the hands of fishermen, the public and other regulatory and commercial groups. The agency’s website gets more than 300,000 unique visitors a year. Scientific reports as well as regional and national fisheries plan to use Bianchi’s reports.

“Much of this work requires linking a number of tables of information,” Bianchi says. “SAS allows me to look at the tables and link where appropriate. I don’t know another software I could use.’’

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Challenge

Manage fish stocks off the coast of NC for both commercial and recreational fishermen.

Solution

SAS® Analytics

Benefits

The ability to link, analyze and share data about fish stocks helps to protect a healthy balance of species and support commercial fishing operations.

It’s the law

The Endangered Species Preservation Act was passed in 1966 to protect threatened and endangered species, preserve their habitats and even acquire land for habitats for endangered species. A 1969 amendment also protects species in danger of “worldwide extinction” by prohibiting their importation and sale in the US.

Threatened and endangered fish of NC:

  • Cape Fear Shiner – E
  • Roanoke Logperch – E
  • Shortnose Sturgeon – E
  • Spotfin Chub – T
  • Waccamaw Silverside – T
  • Atlantic Sturgeon - E

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