"Scifish" Technology To Protect Alaska's Fisheries And Promote Sustainable Use

Patrick Simpson, the son of Alaskan fishermen, has developed software and a type of sonar that will help fisheries while reducing harmful effects on the environment. Simpson, with the assistance of the National Science Foundation's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, created Scientific Fisheries Systems Inc. (SciFish) in 1993.

After receiving a computer science degree, Simpson had trouble finding work in his home state. He moved to California where he worked for defense contractors and distinguished himself in the area of neural networks. There, Simpson realized he could merge his defense technology expertise with his background in fisheries to develop a business that he could move to Alaska. With the help of the SBIR grant, Simpson was able to pack his company in a rental van and haul himself back home.

This August, SciFish will release the latest version of the software, Fisherman's Associate 2.0, which combines fishery, oceanographic and navigational data to direct fishers towards more productive waters. As a former fisherman, Simpson was able to draw upon his experience to create software which takes some of the guesswork out of fishing. "By processing all this data," says Simpson, "we can enable fishers to get a better return while minimizing their impact on the ecosystem."

Some evidence suggests that the world's current fishing fleets could easily over-fish the ocean. This could result in the collapse of an important source of food for both humans and animals. In response to over-fishing and bycatch-catching animals that were not intended for harvest-regulations worldwide have put restraints on common fishing practices.

According to NSF program manager Sara Nerlove, one of the great strengths of the SBIR program is that "it can foster technologies that nobody else might risk funding; research that could lead to significant public benefits. Not only will Patrick's efforts have a pro

Contact: Greg Lester
National Science Foundation

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