A Brief History of The American Fishermen’s Research Foundation

The American Fishermen’s Research Foundation (AFRF) was organized shortly after the founding of the Western Fishboat Owners Association in the early 1970s.  The vision of Frank Martins, the first president of AFRF, was to facilitate cooperative research between the albacore fishing industry and research scientists.  The goal of that research was to provide information that would lead to a consistent, and increased, supply of albacore to the west coast fishery. Since that supply would benefit both fishermen and fish buyers, the board of AFRF was set up to equally represent both sides of the industry.

The focus of AFRF research projects in the first two decades was exploratory fishing and efforts to predict the distribution and abundance of albacore.  The results of this research included the development of the Midway and South Pacific offshore troll fisheries, the use of oceanographic and satellite data to locate albacore, and the accumulation of logbook data that documented catch and effort in the fishery for many years.  During those years there were also predictions issued before the season, exploratory charters, fish reports during the season, and satellite imagery and weather information provided to the fleet.

By the end of the 20th century the political climate and the needs of the fishery had changed.  It had become obvious to many that the major problem facing the fleet was no longer locating good fishing grounds.  In the face of increasing restrictions in all fisheries, maintaining access to the resource would be the biggest challenge going forward.  Policy changes at the federal and international levels meant that fisheries could be restricted not on the basis of information showing depletion, but just for lack of information showing the health of the stock.  It is vital to the fishermen’s interest that good data and good science is available and is used in management decisions. Fortunately, much of the previous and ongoing work of AFRF provides information that is used for stock assessment.  At this point the main focus of AFRF is to continue to provide good data inputs for the management process, and to have representation present, both during the scientific process and the political process, to insure that policy decision are based on good science.

Although the marketing of albacore on the west coast has changed considerably, the fact that both fishermen and fish buyers are dependent on a reliable supply of fish has not changed.  Whatever friction exists between the two sides of the industry does not change this shared interest.  It is this shared interest that has held AFRF together for more than 40 years, and it has been limiting AFRF activities to projects that benefit both segments of the industry that have allowed this unlikely coalition to survive.

John La Grange -Past President, AFRF

Since its founding in 1971 AFRF has pursued numerous albacore-related research and education projects involving tagging, sea surface temperatures, CTD research, albacore migration patterns, weather related projects, logbook development, and other subjects. For a condensed list of projects see: AFRF-Past-Projects 1971-2016