Value of Project to Fishery Conservation and Management


For decades, bycatch has been an issue in trawl fisheries and consequently much effort has been directed to improve the selective performance of trawls. Bycatch is generally defined as the unintended capture of species of fish.  Depending on the bycatch species, fish can be retained for sale or use while others are discarded back to sea.  Fish may be discarded because of regulatory requirements or even low value. The research carried out through current projects by network scientists focuses on reducing both the bycatch of undersized fish as well as non-target species while retaining normal catches of target species and therefore economic viability of the fisheries. Reduction of undersized fish has been accomplished in the past using mesh size regulations. More recently there has been a trend towards the development of species-selective trawl gears.

Longfin inshore squid (Loligo pealeii) are distributed between Georges Bank and Cape Hatteras in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean but can be found in continental shelf waters located between Newfoundland and the Gulf of Venezuela.  The stock is managed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) under the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish (MSB) Fishery Management Plan (FMP). Management measures for the Loligo squid stock include annual total allowable catches (TACs) which have been partitioned into seasonal quotas since 2000, a moratorium on fishery permits, and a minimum codend mesh size of 1 7/8 inches.  The fishery is dominated by small-mesh bottom trawlers. Bycatch in the Loligo squid fishery can include scup (Stenotomus chrysops) and butterfish (Peprilus triacanthus), various flounders, black sea bass (Centropristis striatus) a variety of other marketable and non-marketable species.   

The research projects conducted by scientists in the Squid Trawl Network will contribute significantly to the issue of the capture of non-target species in the Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic small mesh squid fishery.  The multi-tiered network we have put together will develop and implement a synergistic and successful approach to these bycatch issues.  The dynamics and efficiencies of the network will produce useable gear technologies and solutions relative to small mesh trawl bycatch issues.  These will contribute significantly to the conservation and management goals of reducing bycatch and maintaining/rebuilding fish stocks.  Results of this program can be incorporated directly into management programs that address bycatch and conservation of fish species relative to the small mesh trawl fishery.  Moreover this project provides direct input and participation of the fishing industry which will help promote acceptance of gear modifications that are of value to the goals of conservation and management of fish stocks.  The high likelihood of success of this project will support the success of new and innovative approaches to fishery conservation and management of Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic fish stocks.