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Black sea bass Black sea bass. Photo credit: NOAA
Diver on a wooden shipwreck typical of the habitat black sea bass prefer. Diver on a wooden shipwreck typical of the habitat black sea bass prefer. Photo credit: NOAA

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November 17, 2016
Contact: Teri Frady

Outreach Effort Nets Observations on Black Sea Bass

Pilot projects focus on fishermen and divers

The NEFSC is trying new ways to engage fishermen and others in science and stock assessments. The Center and NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Office worked together in the late summer and fall to conduct two pilot projects along these lines in support of the black sea bass assessment. The results are being used to inform the assessment with regard to habitat use.

The stock assessment lead, NEFSC researcher Gary Shepherd, posed three questions. Each addressed a knowledge gap that he believed fishermen and divers might help fill:

  • Are adult black sea bass preying on juvenile black sea bass? This was to better understand if cannibalism is a significant source of natural mortality in the stock.
  • Are other large fish eating a lot of adult black sea bass? Sharks, tunas, and very large bluefish are the most likely predators on older black sea bass, and they are not often sampled for stomach contents. This question was aimed at what fishermen see when cleaning catch.
  • Do you see black sea bass away from wrecks, reefs, piers and other structured habitat? If adults spend significant time on rubble or softer bottom, then inshore trawl survey results may become more important to the assessment.

From August 8 through September 8, 2016, NOAA Fisheries staff in the Northeast executed an outreach project to gather local ecological knowledge from fishermen about black sea bass habitat use and food habits. Staffers posted to ports around the region informally discussed these questions in the course of their regular contacts with commercial and recreational fishermen. Nearly 100 contacts yielded information on one or more questions.

During September, a contract data collection team tested a similar model for commercial and recreation divers in Southern New England. They relied primarily on personal contacts and in-person conversations. This effort also yielded about 100 contacts and information on one or more questions.

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