NYtimes has a very cool article about environmental groups working with California fishermen to establish "no-trawl zones." Apparently the group Oceana sued the National Marine Fisheries Service for not setting aside adequate habitat for some bottom-dwelling species, which resulted in a court-ordered release of specific geographic fishing data. From the article,
When it was accepted as the preferred alternative, the court granted the environmental groups access to proprietary information about the trawl tracks that fishermen follow. Fishing captains are required to record their exact locations using global positioning system monitors from the moment they lower their nets until they haul them back onboard. Often covering up to 20 miles in a 6-to-10-hour tow, those tracks provided a precise picture of fishing and a key to the solution the National Research Council had recommended. Scientists at the Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense overlaid the tracks on maps of underwater features like canyons and ridges, home to a wide variety of species vulnerable to nets.
Apparently environmental groups used this data along with data collected from interviews with the fishermen themselves, to create new conservation zones that would both preserve critical habitat without excluding fishermen from their livelihood. I think this is a neat story in a number of ways. The use of GIS for for conservation in the real world is exciting, as is the power of private organizations and private money in effecting large scale change in land management. Can anyone dig up any more papers on this? The NYTimes doesn't really cite its sources. Here's a related NPR story, and a Nature Conservancy press release. Oh, and a map!