Seeks Better Data
On Illex Squid
NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center
N E W S
Short-finned (Illex) squid taken in a May 20-30 survey aboard commercial vessels. The survey is described in the pre-survey press release below. To interview survey participants, contact George Liles (508 495-2378) or Teri Frady (508 495-2239).
The Illex squid fishery generated about $9 million in landings revenues in 1998, and involves approximately 30 vessels out of New Jersey and Rhode Island. The fishery generally begins June when the squid migrate onto the Continental Shelf. Vessels follow the stocks as they migrate north, and the fishery usually ends in autumn when the squid migrate back offshore. Illex are difficult to assess and manage because they migrate widely, often in deep water not covered in conventional surveys, and only live about one year.
The pilot survey is a collaboration involving the federal government (NOAA Fisheries), industry consultants from Rutgers University, and commercial fishermen. Funding is provided by the NOAA Fisheries' Marine Fisheries Initiative (MARFIN) program and the squid fishing industry. The MARFIN funds have been used in the southeastern U.S. since 1986, and the program was expanded to New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions for the first time in 1998.
The commercial vessels involved are the F/V Relentless and F/V Flicka. The Relentless fishes out of Davisville, Rhode Island, captained by Greg Bray. The Flicka fishes out of Cape May, New Jersey, captained by Lars Axelsson. The scientific crew are from NOAA Fisheries, a federal agency, and academia.
Pictured below, also aboard the Relentless, are fishermen Tony Richards (left foreground) and Dave Webb (left background), and fisherman Ed McDermott (right foreground).
Each vessel is trawling for half an hour at 42 randomly-selected stations at depths between 60 and 200 fathoms. Scientists and crew members are collecting data on weight, length and sexual maturity of the squid collected, biological information that is needed to improve stock assessments. They also are collecting data on population density and distribution, biological information important to managing the fishery.
Another goal of the pilot survey is to measure the performance of the trawl gear. Sensors mounted on the gear will indicate how widely the net is opened during the tow. That information, combined with information about the trawl speed, can be used to calculate the area of the bottom and volume of water sampled. The resulting information may allow scientists to estimate the abundance of squid.
The project may result in methods that will allow some survey data to be obtained using commercial fishing gear and vessels rather than research vessels and equipment. If a survey is to be conducted regularly by industry, these methods will allow the results to be compared over time to show trends in stock density and abundance, despite the differences in power and efficiency among commercial vessels collecting the samples.
The survey will gather other information useful for designing squid surveys. In this part of the experiment, the scientists will compare information obtained by bottom trawl with the acoustic pattern the vessel's echo sounder ("fish-finder") produces when squid are encountered. With a more precise understanding of how different concentrations of squid appear on echo sounders, biologists hope eventually to be able to do squid stock assessments based on acoustic surveys.
The pilot survey focuses entirely on Illex squid and will sample more stations in squid habitat than does the NOAA Fisheries resource survey, which usually occurs in this area in March. Eventually, sampling protocols worked out during this experiment may form the basis of a new time-series of data, that more precisely reflects the stock size and condition for this species.
The MARFIN program, the federal funding source for this work, supports collaborative projects that seek to optimize economic and social benefits from marine fishery resources. Other projects in the Northeast receiving MARFIN support this year are a monkfish sampling project in the Mid-Atlantic and herring studies in the Gulf of Maine.
Above, Flicka, out of Cape May, New Jersey, tows for squid. Below, NMFS scientist Henry Milliken logs data gathered by sensors mounted on the fishing gear.