SMAST Yellowtail Flounder Bycatch Avoidance Program for Closed Areas I and II
The following was released by the University of Massachusetts School for Marine Science and Fisheries:
The School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is continuing their successful Yellowtail Flounder Bycatch Avoidance Program in collaboration with the scallop fishing fleet for Closed Areas I and II. The scallop rotational access areas on Georges Bank are scheduled to open after approval of Framework 22 to the Scallop Fishery Management Plan in July 2011. Combined, these areas could account for nearly 12 million pounds of scallop landings in 2011. However, the Total Allowable Catch of yellowtail flounder within the areas is only ~313,000 pounds, which could force an early closure of both areas leaving the lucrative scallop resource unharvested.
SMAST has devised a system to assist scallopers avoid yellowtail flounder and harvest scallops using data collected by the active fishing fleet. The voluntary program asks fishermen to record where they are fishing and how many pounds of yellowtail flounder and scallops they are catching. This information is emailed to SMAST daily, compiled ( individual messages are confidential) and broadcast back to the fleet through Boatracs and SkyMate VMS emails as an advisory of where bycatch “hotspots” are located. The program helped scallopers harvest their full scallop allocation in the Nantucket Lightship in 2010, while catching only 32% of the yellowtail flounder Total Allowable Catch. To date, 155 individual vessels have signed up to participate in the program for Closed Areas I and II for 2011.
The SMAST researchers conducted their annual scallop video survey in the Georges Bank scallop rotational access areas and created maps showing scallop distribution and abundance. They also collaborated with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), who conducted a dredge survey in Closed Area II, to create a map depicting areas where yellowtail flounder bycatch is low, medium and high. These maps were sent to the scallop fleet prior to the areas opening to help inform fishermen of areas where bycatch could potentially close the fishery early. The bycatch maps will be updated daily as information from the fishery is received and can be seen at http://www.smast.umassd.edu/Bycatch_Avoidance/index.php.
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