Yellowtail flounder resting on gravelly ocean bottom
Yellowtail flounder resting on gravelly ocean bottom, photographed by the HABCAM, a multi-sensor dragged sampling array developed especially for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Credit: NEFSC/NOAA.
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NR14.03
February 7, 2014
Contact: Teri Frady

Georges Bank Pilot Flatfish Survey Data Available

NEFSC Has More Work in Progress to Understand Flatfish Stock Condition

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center has released a data report detailing last August’s pilot research survey that focused on flatfish, conducted aboard the F/V Mary K and the F/V Yankee Pride.  The survey was designed by a panel that included scientists, fishermen, and gear manufacturers.

This pilot survey was intended to demonstrate how an industry-based, dedicated survey for flatfish could augment other data collection in the region, and to better understand the resources required to establish and maintain such a survey. A second, related industry-based cruise to compare catch between a commercial trawl and the gear used by the NOAA FSV Henry B. Bigelow was delayed by the October 2013 federal government shutdown, but will be completed later this year.  After that we will consider whether a flatfish-specific survey should be integrated into data collection in the region and how information gathered might allow us to better interpret broad-scale survey data collected by the U.S. and Canada on Georges Bank. 

These industry-based cruises are two of several things the NEFSC is doing to work with partners in the region to better understand the condition of flounder stocks.  We are especially focused on yellowtail flounder, which are not recovering even as catches are being significantly curtailed.

On Georges Bank, the yellowtail flounder stock is a key one for both groundfish and sea scallop fishermen. All signals point to a biomass that is at or near the lowest biomass on record.  The current assessment model, however, consistently overestimates total biomass and underestimates fishing mortality rates, making forecasts of future stock sizes more uncertain.

Georges Bank yellowtail flounder stock assessment and management are conducted jointly with Canada through an international agreement, using a Transboundary Resource Assessment Committee (TRAC) to conduct assessments and a Transboundary Management Guidance Committee make management recommendations.

We have proposed a new, empirical assessment approach to be evaluated by the TRAC through a benchmark assessment during the week of April 14-18 at the NEFSC Woods Hole Laboratory. It will not be a typical stock assessment modeling meeting. The empirical approach examines both standard and new data to evaluate hypotheses about what is causing the current stock assessment model to produce poor estimates.

Next week, on Feb 11 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm, some NEFSC scientists will be meeting with representatives from industry and other partners at the UMASS School of Marine Science and Technology in Fairhaven to present data from the flatfish pilot survey and discuss ways in which these data  can be incorporated into the upcoming TRAC yellowtail empirical approach assessment. (See "Related Links," above for directions to the meeting.)   This will be an opportunity to discuss characteristics of yellowtail flounder and the challenges they pose for survey designs.  Additional meetings with industry are intended, but no specific dates have been set.

Results from the April TRAC meeting will be used at the annual full meeting of the committee in June, where status of three Georges Bank stocks shared by the U.S. and Canada will be reviewed, including cod and haddock in the Eastern Georges Bank management units, as well as Georges Bank yellowtail flounder.  The TRAC will also develop advice used by fishery managers to evaluate the risk of overfishing given different catches. 

 

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(File Modified Feb. 10 2014)

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