Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Matthew Beaton (left), and pastCommissioner of the Department of Fish & Game, George Peterson (right), sampling cod on the Industry-Based Survey with Division of Marine Fisheries biologist, Micah Dean.
Industry-Based Groundfish Survey The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries launched their second Gulf of Maine cod Industry-Based Survey in April 2016, funded in part by the Groundfish Disaster Economic Assistance Program and the Commonwealthâ€™s Baker-Polito Administration, as another method to survey the Gulf of Maine cod population and address fishermenâ€™s concerns about commercial catch quotas. This is a renewed effort to examine cod in the Gulf of Maine using identical gear and protocols as the first survey, conducted from 2003-2007, with a new sampling design that
increases the amount of spatial information about the cod population. While the main focus is on cod, the survey collects information on several groundfish species in the Gulf of Maine, including flounder and haddock. Providing a robust independent estimate of cod stock size will be extremely valuable for interpreting the existing scientific advice about the stock. Furthermore, the use of consistent gear and protocols will allow for comparison between the two separate survey time periods, which span the various changes in management, environment, and federal surveys.
A primary goal of the survey is to provide information useful to the management and assessment of Gulf of Maine groundfish that is credible to fishermen, scientists, and managers. Marine Fisheries Institute researchers are currently exploring methods to integrate the open cod-end video trawl survey and the Industry-Based Survey. Using advanced modeling techniques, the results from the fine-scale video trawl survey can be combined with the broad-scale Industry-Based Survey to provide a comprehensive estimate of the size and distribution of the Gulf of Maine cod population.
Bycatch Reduction Herring Fishery Bycatch Avoidance
The F/V Miss Emily, a commercial groundfish vessel, was contracted to conduct the Industry-Based Groundfish Survey.
Herring fishery bycatch avoidance program lead, Bradley Schondelmeier (Division of Marine Fisheries, right) reviewing electronic reporting protocols with a mid-water trawl fisherman aboard the F/V Western Venture.
River herring (alewife and blueback herring) and American shad are ecologically and culturally significant fishes of the Atlantic Coast. However, these fishes are considered depleted and an increased focus has been placed on limiting their accidental catch (bycatch) in commercial fisheries. In the Atlantic herring and mackerel fisheries, if a certain amount of river herring and shad are caught, substantial portions or all areas of these fisheries are closed to fishermen using mid-water trawl gear. To balance conservation and resource utilization, the Marine Fisheries Institute began a partnership in 2010 with mid-water and bottom trawl fishermen from Massachusetts and Rhode Island to implement a near-real time river herring and shad bycatch avoidance program. The program aggregates catch data and communicates the location of high bycatch events to all participating vessels so that these areas can be avoided.
Results indicate that consistent outreach and communication, facilitated by the avoidance program, positively influences fishing habits and has played a role in decreased bycatch since the program started. In addition to helping fishermen avoid bycatch and area closures, the project has greatly increased the data available to monitor bycatch by including support for portside sampling. The research team continues to portside sample at least 50% of mid-water trawl trips landed in Massachusetts, and has been working to advance the applications of the communication system for river herring habitat forecasting. The project was started with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and continued with funding by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and The Nature Conservancy. It is now sustained by the Atlantic Herring Research Set Aside program.
MFI Annual Report 2017