Addressing Bycatch in New England’s Groundfish Sectors: The Development of a Fishing Area Selectivity Tool
Jonathon M. Peros, Riley Young Morse, Ian Ogilvie, Jonathan Labaree, and Daniel S. Salerno
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A lack of real-time catch data on which to base fishing behavior has significant implications for avoiding bycatch in New England’s groundfish fishery. Groundfish sectors—fishing cooperatives created through a transition to catch share management—are subject to time lags in management decisions on bycatch as information is gathered and analyzed. Through support from NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Cooperative Research Program, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute piloted a spatial/temporal fishing area selectivity tool in partnership with the groundfish industry. In New England, bycatch can lead to time/area closures of prime fishing grounds and gear restrictions, severely restricting the fishing industry’s ability to fully access the annual catch limit of allocated stocks. The initial project focus in 2010 of providing fishermen with a tool to share individual catch data with other fishermen in order to target allocated species and avoid others was met with resistance. Initial allocations varied widely among fishermen—one boat’s target species was another’s “choke” stock (stock for which the harvest share in a particular sector is proportionally lower than the allocations of other stocks). Many lessons were learned, and the project focus shifted to reduce bycatch on species the entire fleet has a vested interest in avoiding. The ultimate outcome of the project was the development of a web-based data portal and mapping tool that enables industry-led bycatch avoidance efforts outside of the regulatory process for harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus), and windowpane flounder (Scophthalmus aquosus). The tool integrates catch data with historical catch and observer collected data, oceanographic information, and management information. The catch data are available through the application as soon as they are posted, which can be as quickly as real-time from the fishing grounds if the vessel is within cell phone range. Work is ongoing, and our fleet-wide approach brings new opportunities and challenges to bycatch avoidance.
- Item number: AK-SG-15-01j
- Year: 2015
- Pages: 18
- DOI: https://doi.org/10.4027/fbgics.2015.10