Friday, November 1, 2013

Schedule a dockside meeting to discuss GEARNET project results!

Have you heard about some results from a GEARNET or related project that you'd like to hear more about or that you think others would be interested in?  Then schedule a dock-side meeting and we'll show up with the right people to discuss them with you.  Raised gillnets, LED pingers, cod pots, topless trawls, semi-pelagic doors, modified net materials that can reduce
fuel consumption are just a few of the topics we can please don't wait - give me a call or email  (Erik Chapman - 603-583-3430/ and we can schedule something in your neck of the woods....We're looking to schedule meetings from Maine to Rhode Island between January and March, 2014.....

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

GEARNET Demonstrates Innovative Fishing Gear at the New Bedford Waterfront Festival

New Bedford, the once great whaling capital, hosts one of the region's best Waterfront Festivals
GEARNET scientists, fishermen, and net builders teamed up with scientists from the Fisheries and Marine Institute in Newfoundland, Canada to demonstrate fishing gear in a small-scale (but still very large!) flume tank at the New Bedford Waterfront Festival.  This was a follow-up to a GEARNET sponsored trip made one year ago by over 20 regional groundfishermen to visit the full-scale flume tank in Newfoundland, where scientists come from all over the world to test and design new gear designs.   Both flume tanks offer gear scientists and fishermen the unique opportunity to view how gear behaves in water as water circulates through the tank and flat material moves along the bottom of the tank simulating towing conditions as accurately as possible.
The 'smaller' flume tank in action in New Bedford

 Model nets are constructed and tested in the tanks as a critical step in net design and manufacturing.  These flume tanks have been used in the development of countless new gears that have reduced bycatch and otherwise helped answered many critical challenges faced by fishermen and managers.

The 'Elminator Trawl', a net designed to reduce bycatch
in the haddock fishery, is shown in the tank.
Over the course of the 2-day festival in New Bedford, 9  fishing gears were demonstrated, engaging fishermen discussions with GEARNET scientists around net design and giving them an opportunity to show their families and friends a bit more about what they do on the water.

Demonstrated gears included several being tested in GEARNET-related projects, including semi-pelagic doors designed to raise gears off the bottom, reducing bottom impacts while reducing fuel costs and a small-diameter haddock trawl with large-mesh panels on the top of the net that reduced bycatch.

However, the scallop dredge was a favorite with the local crowd as the festival was held dead-center in the middle of the nation's thriving scallop industry.

New Bedford scallopers watch a scallop dredge and discuss how a turtle-avoiding dredge works.
 On Sunday, GEARNET net builder and Principle Investigator, Jon Knight of Superior Trawl in Rhode Island  demonstrated a break-bag design.  The break-bag is a less-expensive alternative to a net sensor that triggers a release mechanism that closes a trawl opening when the cod-end is filled to a desired level.   The mechanism is not currently being used, but has the potential to be modified and tailored as needed to a range of fisheries.

The Break-bag design attracts a crowd
The tank provides a unique opportunity for folks who rarely have the opportunity to see or discuss fishing gear and how they are often designed  to reduce their impacts on habitat while catching abundant species.  Thanks to our colleagues at the Fisheries and Marine Institute, Paul Winger, Tara Perry and Craig Hollet and Tor Bendiksen from Reidar Manufacturing in Fairhaven, MA for helping to make this happen!
Jon Knight points to gear in the flume tank to a 'captured' audience.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Can Gillnets Raised Off The Sea-bed Keep Fishermen on the Water?

With cuts in cod quota, fishermen are showing their typical innovation to come up with new ways to avoid cod while continuing to catch species they continue to fish - and fish sustainably.  Most gear selectivity work has focused on modifying trawl gear - but why not work with gillnets?  That's just what fishermen in NH, Port Clyde and elsewhere suspected and with the help of GEARNET, they've started looking at a few different ideas on the water...

Jayson Driscoll (FV Sweet Misery, Rye, NH) has been working with the experimental gillnets
Beginning in the next few weeks, New Hampshire gillnet fishermen will be testing the effectiveness of gillnets raised 4’ off the bottom to reduce the catch of cod while maintaining a profitable catch of other, more abundant, species. These nets have shown promise for doing just that, and testing this year will expand the test-nets to more realistic conditions.

Two test nets have been constructed, each with five experimental 300’ strings raised 4’ off the sea-bed and five 300’ standard strings not raised off the seabed.  

The New Hampshire fishermen will share the experimental gear within New Hampshire’s Groundfish Sectors XI and XII during the experiment.  The fishermen are waiting for the fall, when greater numbers of fish should be around to test the relative selectivity of the standard and experimental nets.  

This project is paired with a similar effort out of Port Clyde, ME that also will be testing the alternative gillnet design.

It’s certainly been a busy and challenging fishing season, but these, and other projects offer a glimpse of the innovative and resilient spirit that is echoed throughout the Northeast.   Return here to track the progress of these and other GEARNET projects!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Selectivity of Modified Groundcables to Reduce Sea-bed Impact Tested

Many projects funded in the spring of 2013 are now underway, and some have already completed their field work and are now in the analysis stage.

In June, Neal Pike on the F/V Sandi Lynn and David Goethel on the F/V Ellen Diane tested a modified groundcable setup designed to reduce sea-bed impact.  They collected data over five days of fishing that included six sets of tows with the two vessels fishing side-by-side.

The FV Ellen Diane (in picture) and the FV Sandi Lynn (in the distance) tested the modified groundcables in June.
The results will be of interest to both managers, who may consider opening previously closed areas to gear with a reduced environmental footprint, and to fishermen, who are interested in whether fishing with such gear would make sense from a business standpoint.

During the experiment, one vessel used a modified ground cable with 8” rockhopper disks designed to keep the ground cable off the bottom while the other used its standard ground cable.

David Goethel points to the 8" rockhopper disks used to keep his bottom cable raised above the seabed

“We were interested in seeing two things from this experiment,” explained Goethel.  “First, we wanted to see if a ground cable like this one actually stayed off the bottom and, second, we wanted to see how this would affect the fish we catch.”

Although the data still were being analyzed in August, the fishermen already had a few impressions about how the gear performed.

“We definitely seemed to be getting fewer flounder with the ground cable with the disks,” Goethel said.  “I would not use the modified cables when fishing for flounders, but they could be used though when fishing for cod, haddock, and pollock during hard-bottom fishing when bottom contact is not desired.”

He added that the modified cables probably could be used anywhere the principal founder catch is blackback such as areas of George’s Bank where blackbacks are pursued with bottom gear.
The video supported Goethel's conclusion that the ground cable modification reduced impact on the bottom.

“The video was a bit grainy," said GMRI technician Croy Carlin.  "But, you could definitely see that the cable is off the bottom.”

   Video courtesy of Croy Carlin - Gulf of Maine Research Institute

A more rigorous analysis of the catch and fuel consumption results will be available on the GEARNET website this fall.  The results will be posted alongside a related GEARNET project that tested a low-impact semi-pelagic or "LISP" trawl offshore aboard vessels operated by Jim Odlin’s Atlantic Trawlers Fishing Inc. in July.

Those tests looked at the impact of a system that includes semi-pelagic doors and 8” diameter cluster disks, which also are hypothesized to reduce bottom-impact while maintaining a profitable catch.

Stay tuned for more updates from projects on the water!