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.

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