REDUCING WINTER FLOUNDER RETENTION THROUGH THE USE OF AVOIDANCE GEAR ADAPTATIONS

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report

Trip # 1 (shakedown cruise) – Winter Flounder AGA Project

      Early on the morning of June 24, 2010 the Cornell research team (See below) departed from Inlet Seafood in Montauk, NY aboard the F/V Rianda S., federal permit # 310378.  The three Cornell scientists aboard were Tara Froehlich, Joe Costanzo, and Josh Clauss.  After loading all the necessary equipment onto the boat, the Rianda S. left the dock at approximately 5:30 am.  Travel time was near one hour to our location which was roughly mid-way between Montauk Point and Block Island in the Block Island Sound.  The Rianda was equipped with two nets and would be so throughout this project.  The first net is the control net which is a 400 X 12 cm., 4-seam, 3-bridle standard otter trawl (the specifics of which can be found in the full proposal).  The second net is the experimental net.  This net was the same as the control net except for one alteration.  This alteration consisted of removing the first belly panel and installing a new one consisting of two rows of 32” mesh creating the avoidance gear adaptation (AGA).  This first trip was to be one of two shakedown cruises to be sure all equipment and procedures were working correctly.  The plan was to complete six one hour tows altering between the control and experimental nets following the ABBA AB protocol (A=control and B=experimental).  The first tow began at 7:05 am and was followed by only three more tows as the Rianda crew and Cornell staff worked together to perfect procedure and ensure that six tows would be completed on ensuing trips.  Initial outcome from the data collected from the completed four tows showed promising results for the effectiveness of the AGA.  The two tows with the control net resulted in 42.9 lbs. of Loligo and 753 lbs. of winter flounder while the experimental net caught 45.8 lbs. of Loligo and 311.2 lbs of winter flounder.  In regards to whiting the results were not as promising with the control net capturing a total of 738 lbs. and the experimental only 205.6 lbs.  Another area that showed great promise for the success of the AGA was in regards to other less economical important species of bycatch.  The numbers of skates was drastically reduced when using the experimental net.  Also the numbers of dogfish, both spiny and smooth, were reduced when comparing the sequential tows of the control and experimental nets.  Overall, trip # 1was a success.  As a shakedown cruise it allowed the crew and staff to perfect procedure and the accumulation of initial data shows promising results for the effectiveness of the AGA’s design.  

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 2 (shakedown cruise) – Winter Flounder AGA Project

      June 25, 2010 signified the start of the Cornell research team’s second shakedown cruise.  This trip included video equipment and a videographer from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute with the intent of capturing underwater footage of fish behavior and fishing gear at work.  In addition to the camera work, we also planned to change the size of the AGA panel by covering the center third of the large mesh (80 cm) panel with a smaller (12 cm) patch.   This modification was done to see what effect it would have on the overall performance of the AGA panel.  The location was again Block Island Sound roughly mid-way between Montauk Point and Block Island.  Installing the camera on the net initially proved to be tedious and time consuming, but the procedure was improved upon over the course of the day.  The results of the camera work to date appear to be less than a success as the technician was unable to retrieve any images despite the fact that the camera was recording.  The final result is still unclear as the images are still trying to be retrieved.  The size of the AGA panel was altered during comparative tows 3 and 4 with the raw data showing that the panel is much more effective at its full, unaltered size.  Initial observations and raw data show similar results relative to the effectiveness of the AGA panel to that of trip # 1.  Bycatch was reduced significantly in comparative tows when using the net with the AGA panel.  Retention of Loligo, according to raw data, was consistent with no obvious difference between the control and the experimental nets.  On the other hand, the reduction in retention of winter flounder was significantly different with the experimental net retaining much smaller numbers.   

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 3 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

      On June 28, 2010, with two shakedown cruises completed, Cornell’s third research trip began.  Three Cornell scientists boarded the Rianda S. early in the morning and began a long day fishing.  Weather conditions and industry feedback from other commercial vessels as to the location of the squid led us to a new fishing area.  Research would be conducted north and slightly west of Montauk Inlet in an area that included waters of both Gardiner’s Bay and Block Island Sound.  After the conclusion of the six tows and upon examination of the raw data the experimental net with the AGA panel appears to be functioning well.  Retention of squid by the experimental net initially appears to be slightly less than the goal of 85% but the retention of non-target species, including winter flounder, is greatly exceeding the goal of 50%.  

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 4 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

      The Cornell researchers boarded the Rianda S. early on June 29, 2010 for the commencement of trip # 4.  The area fished today was the same as that of trip # 3.  This locale is referred to by the fishermen as “the bay”, and it appeared as if the squid were still here as the majority of the Montauk, NY fishing fleet was in this area.  Upon conclusion of the sixth tow and examination of the collected data the AGA panel seems to be providing results that would verify its success.  The control net resulted in roughly 946 lbs. of Loligo while the experimental net retained 743 lbs.  This equates to nearly an 80% retention rate.  The experimental net is proving to be even more successful at reducing bycatch, with the retention of winter flounder by the experimental net at near zero (.32 lbs.) and the control net at just over 25 lbs.  Other species of bycatch were also reduced, most notably were skates and window pane flounder.

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 5 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

      Trip # 5 occurred on July 7, 2010 and the research team included a videographer from Cornell who was there to film the work and also assist in the collection of data.  The short film that will be created will hopefully be offered to those that are interested via the internet including the Cornell Cooperative website.  Trip 5 continued in the same area as the previous two trips as the Montauk fleet continued to have success catching Loligo at this locale.  The Cornell researchers were once again on the F/V Rianda S. early in the morning.  The first research tow began at 5:30 am and the sixth tow was completed at 2:00 pm.  The raw data from this trip reflects similar results to the previous trips.  Winter flounder and other species of bycatch continue to show significant reductions in retention when using the experimental net.  The success of the experimental net in retaining squid, when compared to the control net, waivered slightly on this trip.  The combined totals for Loligo in each of the two nets were approximately 763 lbs. in the control net and 479 lbs. in the experimental net.

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 6 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

    The F/V Rianda S. continued to find squid in the calm waters of Gardiner’s Bay on July 8, 2010.  Trip # 6 started much the same as the previous cruises with an early rise for the Cornell researchers and a quick start to the fishing.  Much of the Montauk fleet also continued to fish this area which served to bolster  our confidence in the decision to stay at this locale.  At the conclusion of the day the raw data showed that during this trip, for the first time the experimental net had outperformed the control net in regards to the retention of Loligo.  Preliminary totals had the experimental net with 622 lbs. of squid compared to 561 lbs. with the control net.   The bycatch of winter flounder was non-existent with the experimental net, 0 lbs. were caught, while the control net resulted in 11lbs. of winter flounder for the day.  The experimental net continued to show promising results with the bycatch of other species, in particular skates whose reduction is most drastic.

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 7 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

      July 14, 2010 was the date of the seventh trip for the Cornell research team.  We continued to fish the sheltered waters north of Montauk Inlet that bordered both Block Island Sound and Gardiner’s Bay.  The Montauk fleet was making its presence less felt as the number of boats in the area had noticeably declined.  At the end of the day, the combined total of retained Loligo would reflect the fact that the squid had started to move and were no longer present in the abundance that they had been.  Again, the data collected throughout the day remained consistent with that from previous trips indicating that the AGA panel was performing well and demonstrating the qualities it was designed to have.  As was the case in trip # 6, the combined total of retained squid in the experimental net exceeded that of the control net.  To its credit, the experimental net with the AGA panel once again retained 0 lbs. of winter flounder while the control net captured slightly more than a combined 12 lbs.  Other species of bycatch continued to show declined numbers in the experimental net as compared to the control net.

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 8 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

    Trip # 8 took place on July 15, 2010 with the fishing continuing in Gardiner’s Bay and the surrounding waters.  Several other commercial vessels continued to fish this location but it was obvious that the fleet was less represented.  The day progressed smoothly as protocol and procedure were by this time perfected and second nature.  At day’s end, the data collected continued to be consistent with that of previous trips.  The experimental net and AGA panel once again resulted in zero retention of winter flounder while the control net landed slightly over 7 lbs. for the day.  The totals for Loligo favored the control net on this trip with approximately 449 lbs. for the control and 270 lbs. for the experimental.  Bycatch continued to be significantly reduced when using the experimental net especially relative to skates,  windowpanes, and fluke.

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 9 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

      Cornell’s 9th  research trip took place on July 21, 2010 and included a new fishing area in an effort to locate a spot that would include both Loligo and winter flounder.  The new location was an area south and east of Montauk Point along the east end of Long Island’s Atlantic coast.  All of the fishing on this trip occurred in approximately 23 fathoms of water and the new location provided changes compared to previous trips.  There was an abundance of winter flounder caught on this trip but minimal amounts of Loligo.  Spiny dogfish dominated the species of bycatch and on tow # 4 were so abundant (amount estimated at between 8,000 – 12,000 lbs.) that the net (control) could not be hauled onto the boat for fear of damaging the gear.  This in turn nullified the data collected from tow # 3 since there would be nothing to compare it to.  Using the remaining four tows winter flounder totals were reduced significantly in the experimental net (14 lbs.) as compared to the control net (494 lbs.).  Loligo totals were low across the board with the control net capturing more than the experimental.  Finally, relative to other species of bycatch, the quantities caught were lower with the experimental net compared to the control net.

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 10 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

      Research trip # 10 occurred on July 22, 2010.  Fishing location was a concern on this trip because of the abundance of dogfish at our trip # 9 location and the lack of knowledge as to the location of the squid.  The rest of the commercial fleet  were also having problems locating the squid so our only logical choice was to return to the waters of Gardiner’s Bay and Block Island Sound to avoid the dogfish and hope there was still some squid lingering in the vicinity.  At day’s end, the data collected reflected results that were consistent with previous trips.  Winter flounder numbers were greatly reduced in the experimental net as compared to the control net.  This was also the case with other species of bycatch. The control net outperformed the experimental net relative to Loligo retention during this trip. Preliminary totals for winter flounder and Loligo were as follows:  control net retained 97 lbs. of squid and 32 lbs. of flounder and the experimental net caught 32 lbs. of squid and 1 lb. of flounder.

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 11 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

 

     The Cornell team began trip # 11 from a new port on July 27, 2010.  Information gathered from within the commercial fishing industry suggested that there was some squid located further west along the south shore of Long Island’s Atlantic coast.  The previous night the Rianda S. had steamed from Montauk, NY to the new port of Shinnecock located in Hampton Bays, NY.  The day progressed smoothly and was mostly uneventful except for the capture of an extremely large roughtail stingray (250 + lbs.) during tow # 3 (experimental net).  The captain informed us that when you catch one of these rays that the quantity of other species is often reduced.  Upon examining the raw data at the end of the day it was obvious that we had indeed located more squid.  Also preliminary results seemed to be consistent with those from previous trips.  Winter flounder bycatch was greatly reduced when using the experimental net as was the bycatch of other species including fluke, windowpanes, and skates.   The experimental net retained less squid than the control net and appeared to be well below the goal of 85% retention when comparing the two nets during this trip.

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 12 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

      Trip # 12 occurred on July 28, 2010 and began in Hampton Bays, NY with the hopes of staying with the squid that had been located yesterday between Moriches Inlet to the west and Shinnecock Inlet to the east on Long Island’s Atlantic coast.  With beautiful weather and procedure and protocol becoming second nature the day of fishing passed with no problems or significant events.  At the conclusion of the day the raw data relative to bycatch continued to be consistent with other trips.  The experimental net resulted in zero retention of winter flounder and reduced the quantity of other bycatch such as fluke, windowpanes, and skates.  Additionally, the experimental net retained more Loligo during this trip than the control net. The total squid caught during the three tows with the experimental net was 514 lbs. while the three tows with the control resulted in 350 lbs.  

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 13 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

 The Cornell team began trip # 13 in Montauk, NY on October 6, 2010.  The Rianda S. steamed to an area south of Montauk Point generally known as Block Canyon.  Accompanying the Cornell team on this trip was a videographer from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center whose goal was to get some footage of both the control and experimental nets while actively fishing.  This footage could then be used to more accurately assess fish behavior relative to capture and also to analyze the effectiveness of the AGA panel.    The work involved with installing and removing the camera from the nets reduced the fishing effort from six tows to only four tows.  Additionally tow # 2 had to be repeated because the first attempt resulted in a bag filled with an estimated 12,000 lbs. of scup.  The Rianda S. was not capable of winching a catch that large aboard so the fish were released from the net while still in tow.   Upon examining the raw data at the end of the day, preliminary results seemed to be consistent with those from previous trips.  Winter flounder bycatch was greatly reduced when comparing the experimental net (16 lbs.) to the control net (157.6 lbs.).   The experimental net exceeded expectations on this trip and retained more squid than the control net with the numbers being 137.8 lbs. in the experimental and 67 lbs. in the control.

 

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 14 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

 Trip # 14 was conducted on October 7, 2010 and left from the port of Montauk, NY.  The video work continued on this trip, which again, due to the effort of installing and removing the camera, resulted in only four tows being completed rather than the desired six tows.  The fishing was conducted in relatively shallow water south and west of Montauk Point along the south shore of Long Island. The driving reason for this location was increased visibility in hopes of improving the results of the video work.  The four tows were completed without any issues other than those related to the camera.  Preliminary observation of the data collected during this trip continues with the trend of results from previous trips.  The experimental net retained zero pounds of winter flounder compared to the 3.6 pounds caught in the control net.  The experimental net continued to exceed expectations relative to squid retention.  The experimental net caught 217.3 pounds of Loligo and the control net resulted in 121.4 pounds.

 

 Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 15 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

 The Cornell team left from Montauk, NY for research trip # 15 on October 12, 2010. The fishing for this trip was conducted a short distance from Montauk Inlet in Block Island Sound between Block Island and Montauk Point.  The trip progressed smoothly.   There were no problems encountered and all six tows were completed in a timely fashion.  A quick evaluation of the data collected seemed to follow suit with the results from previous trips.  Once again the preliminary numbers showed that winter flounder bycatch was significantly reduced in the experimental net.  There was a total of 3.7 lbs. of winter flounder in the experimental net and 64.6 lbs. in the control net.  There was also significant reduction in other species including skates, fluke, and scup.  The control net did capture more squid than the experimental net during this trip.  The total quantity for each net was 75.2 lbs. (control) versus 60.4 lbs. (experimental), which equates to approximately an 80% retention rate for the experimental net.

 

Cornell Marine Program

Scientific Research Trip Report
Trip # 16 – Winter Flounder AGA Project

 Trip # 16, the final trip for this project, was conducted on October 13, 2010.  Travel time for the Cornell team aboard the Rianda S. was short with the fishing locale just north and east of the Montauk Inlet, specifically Block Island Sound/Gardiner’s Bay.  By now procedure and protocol had become second nature and the Cornell team and Rianda S. crew progressed through the day without encountering a problem.  The desired six tows were all completed and all the accompanying data was recorded in the appropriate data sheets.  During this trip the experimental net again exceeded expectations in winter flounder bycatch reduction by retaining only 13.2 lbs. of winter flounder as compared to 272.2 lbs. in the control net.  Reduction of most other potential bycatch species was also reduced when towing the experimental net during this trip.  Most notable among the other species was skates, spiny dogfish, fluke, and scup. The control net was more effective at retaining squid during this final cruise.  The numbers relative to this aspect were 176.8 lbs. of Loligo over three tows for the control net, compared to 135.5 lbs. for the three tows made by the experimental net.  This equates to about a 77% retention rate for the experimental net.  On a final note, we would like to thank the captain/owner and crew of the F/V Rianda S. for their tremendous cooperation and generous amount of help in bringing this project to a very promising and successful conclusion.