'Fishbrain,' An App For Catching Fish, May Save Endangered Species

It's not your average social network.
Kondor83 via Getty Images

Most social networks don't ask you what type of fish you're interested in when you sign up. But Fishbrain is not most social networks.

The app is designed for fishing enthusiasts -- it claims to have 1.5 million users -- who want to learn more about where, how and when to fish. The whole idea is to turn normal people into brutally efficient scourges of the deep, able to rip rainbow trout from their aquatic homes with greater ease than ever before.

But the app has a surprising, hidden purpose, as well: Because it collects so much data about the fish and wildlife that its users observe, it's uniquely equipped to track endangered and invasive species. In other words: Help people fish, but don't let them annihilate endangered species.

Last August, Fishbrain launched a partnership with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which works to conserve animal life and natural habitats. That partnership continues to this day: People can log endangered species that they see, which helps the Fish and Wildlife Service cover considerably more ground -- well, water -- than it could otherwise.

"As of December 2015, users have logged sightings for nine threatened species," Valerie Fellows, a communications specialist at the Fish and Wildlife Service, told The Huffington Post.

"We share [that information] with our field biologists, so they can use it to track species locations, better understand what habitats are being used, and even identify factors that cause [species] to decline," she added.

The app also gives fishermen information about how not to fish. For example, fishing hooks can attract alligator snapping turtles, a threatened species. These turtles have been found with hooks lodged in their throats, which can require surgery to fix. So, a Fishbrain user in a body of water that's home to those turtles will be notified to take precautions.

Or, if a user is in water where manatees live, they'll know to slow their boat down to prevent collisions with the animal.

An alligator snapping turtle
An alligator snapping turtle
Mark Newman via Getty Images

"We're interested in sustainable fishing, because if we're not, there's no future for fish whatsoever," Johan Attby, the app's CEO, told HuffPost.

It's a win-win, basically. And people should actually want to use the app: In addition to all of the information it displays about where catches are happening and how to behave in certain waters, there's a social networking component that's kind of like Instagram for anglers. You can post photos of fish you catch along with information about how big they are, which then rolls up to a competitive ranking system. Of course, if you'd prefer to keep your information private, you're totally free to.

The more people get hooked on the app, the better.

"The more we grow, the better we will be at spotting trends if in a given body of water -- we can see from year to year that there is a decreasing number of catches of a given species," Attby said. "Then the organizations can announce that something fishy is going on there."

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