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Working up catch from a study aboard the F/V Hera on trawl survey gear efficiency in catching flatfish. Photo credit:  NEFSC/NOAA.

Passive acoustic network listening for spawning cod. Photo credit: NEFSC/NOAA.

April 16, 2015
Contact: Teri Frady

NEFSC to Step Up Partnerships for Better Fishery Resource Surveys

With a number of important regional groundfish stocks still struggling to rebuild despite reduced fishing effort, the NEFSC is reaching out to industry and other scientists to improve collective understanding of stock condition and factors that may be constraining recovery.

“We understand the impacts that poor stock conditions have on local economies and the lives of those involved in the fisheries,” said NOAA Fisheries’ NEFSC director Bill Karp. “We face many challenges in better understanding the dynamics of all of our regional stocks, especially as we see increasing effects of climate change throughout the region. We cannot meet these challenges alone, so we are strengthening our collaborative relationships with industry, our academic partners, and other stakeholders,” he said.

In particular, the NEFSC is committed to working with regional management partners, the New England Fishery Management Council, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and the NOAA Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office. “We intend to build on our foundation of successful cooperative research and enable new opportunities for improving our data collection approaches, thinking differently about our methods, and responding more effectively to the scientific challenges,” said Karp.

For example, the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils recently moved to establish a Northeast Trawl Survey Advisory Panel. The panel is intended to bring commercial fishing, fishery survey, and fishery management professionals together in a region-wide effort to better understand the performance of NEFSC survey methods and to identify potential improvements

”I am grateful for the Councils’ leadership and support and I am excited about this opportunity to work with a broad range of experts,” said Karp. He expects that the panel ‘s work will lead to better understanding of how the NEFSC research survey trawl performs, increased use of cooperative research to supplement or complement current research surveys using alternative vessels and/or other gear configurations, and improved understanding and acceptance of NOAA/NEFSC survey data quality and how these data are used.

The NEFSC already has a number of active research programs intended to improve data collection and interpretation. These include not only its large cooperative research program, but also a Study Fleet, and projects to develop video and other image-based survey technology. The Center is also working toward electronic monitoring of fishery catches and on detection of spawning and schooling fish using acoustics.

In collaboration with fishermen, the Center is evaluating methods to better monitor flatfish and species that occur in habitats where the NEFSC survey trawl can’t be towed. Other ongoing work with industry is intended to quantify the efficiency of the NEFSC research survey trawl and, thereby, reduce assessment uncertainty.

“We want to improve the science that is used to support management so as to provide the best possible outcomes for fisheries in the region,” said Karp. “This can only be achieved through collaboration and recognition of the importance of fully engaging our stakeholders in this process."

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