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Study Fleet History

The impetus for a groundfish study fleet arose from a need to improve the precision of data that scientists have typically extracted from mandatory Fishing Vessel Trip Reports (FVTRs).

FVTR regulations require that a separate logbook page be filled out for each statistical area fished and/or for each gear type/configuration (mesh size, etc.) fished. For each subtrip, the vessel is required to report the cumulative fishing effort.

For example, if a trawl vessel makes six hauls in a single statistical area with the same gear and mesh type, then the effort from the six hauls is averaged to determine an average haul location, duration, and depth, and the catch information from all six hauls is combined.

In some cases, the resolution of subtrip data is not sufficient to capture the fine scale catch-and-effort information needed for some analyses. The collection of detailed information (e.g., gear configuration, duration, location, and timing) from individual units of fishing effort (haul) concurrent with catch attributes (e.g., species, amounts and disposition) can improve estimates of catch-per-unit effort (CPUE) and landings-per-unit-effort (LPUE).

This type of detailed data is similar to that currently collected by the Northeast Fisheries Observer Program (NEFOP). However, to greatly increase the amount of such data collected, it must be collected in a manner that is more cost-effective than increasing the coverage of at-sea fisheries observers.

A line graph displaying number of trips conducted under Study Fleet from 2007 to 2015

In late 2000, workshops were conducted throughout New England involving the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), industry representatives and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to discuss industry interest in developing a New England groundfish study fleet.

It was concluded that the Study Fleet Pilot Program would have the dual objectives of:

(1) assembling a “study fleet” of commercial New England groundfish vessels capable of providing high resolution (temporal and spatial) self-reported data on catch, effort and environmental conditions while conducting “normal” fishing operations and;

(2) developing and implementing electronic reporting hardware and software for the collection, recording, and transferring of more accurate and timely fishery-based data.

More detailed information on these workshops and implications for current and future use of the Study Fleet can be found in the Perkins Report, published in 2001. The Perkins Report and other reference materials are available under the 'documents' tab.

In October 2002, Technology Planning and Management Corporation was contracted to manage the Study Fleet Pilot Program. In November 2002, Phase I commenced with a fleet size of approximately 15 paid participants; some participants operated multiple vessels. Phase I focused on developing the electronic logbook (ELB) software and testing supporting hardware.

During Phase I, there was typically an average of fewer than 10 vessels reporting a combined total of 20 trips per month. Phase II, which began in September 2004, expanded the fleet size to 30 paid participants and continued testing and development of the electronic logbook technology, with particular emphasis on the area of satellite communications and refining the ELB. By the end of Phase II in May 2005, two ELB systems had been developed and a study fleet of approximately 32 fishing vessels had been assembled.

Following the end of Phase II, the program entered a voluntary phase where participants were not compensated for data collection. The voluntary phase ended August 31, 2005 with approximately 9 vessels reporting an additional 99 trips and providing additional information on software and hardware performance.

Read a comprehensive summary of phases I and II of the Study Fleet and the final NEFSC review of the Study Fleet Pilot Project »

Expansion of Electronic Reporting

We were able to expand out data collection to the Mid-Atlantic bight by partner with Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and few other external partners. This initiative allowed Study Fleet to deploy logbooks to many different types of vessels and vessel locations from Maine to North Carolina. .

We added on 58 vessels in addition to the 37 Study Fleet vessels reporting tow by tow information. We now have data collection efforts accross multiple fisheries including bottom and mid-water otter trawl, scallop dredge, gillnet and longline.

Below are charts of the spatial and temperal coverage of vessels using the logbooks to report catch data. The darker the minute block expresses a higher frequency of data collection effort. Currently, the Study Fleet is in Phase III of its development. During this phase, we are creating a fully functioning structure that facilitates all the steps of the process, from data collection to data auditing and utilization.

A plot displaying Northwest Atlantic coverage for 2016

A plot displaying Northwest Atlantic coverage for 2017









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(File Modified Apr. 03 2018)