Thursday, November 5, 2015

Ultra-low Opening Trawl (ULOT): The search for a trawl that avoids cod and catches flatfish is underway!

I’ve been in a lot of rooms lately with fishermen and scientists and let’s just say the mood has generally been on the contentious side.   In some cases things have gotten ugly and conflicts have slipped into the hopeless and counterproductive area of personal attacks.   These meetings have been about what’s going on under the water – how are fish stocks faring right now and what can amount of sustainable fish can we expect from the Gulf of Maine today and into the future.  Both sides are looking at the same problem, but there’s a serious and problematic divide in perspective between fishermen and scientists and managers.   

Gloucester fisherman Tom Testeverde discusses net design with Dr. Pingguo He 
That’s what makes last week’s meeting at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Headquarters in Boston so unique and important.    Fishermen, net manufacturers, scientists and outreach specialists all joined in a discussion – sharing their knowledge, listening to each other and carefully looking at the same problem in front of them:  How can we design fishing gear that can avoid cod while still catching enough flatfish for fishermen to make a living.  

For 6 hours, the group discussed both conventional and out-of-the-box ideas attaching the problem.  On this day, the rigor, focus and skepticism of the scientist was combined with the experience and depth of knowledge of the fishermen – a powerful combination that must be realized more broadly if we are to have more success managing our fisheries. 

Testing of the new trawl design will take place this winter in 
St. John's Newfoundland at the Marine Institute 
The meeting is part of a project funded by The Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant Program and is co-led by Steve Eayrs from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and Mike Pol from Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.  Also joining the discussion were Dr. Pingguo He from the UMass Dartmouth, Jon Knight from Superior Trawl in Point Judith, RI, Dr. Chris Glass from the Northeast Consortium at the University of New Hampshire, Dr. Paul Winger and Tara Perry from the Marine Institute in Newfoundland, along with Massachusetts fishermen Tom Testeverde and Dan Murphy and NH fishermen Jim Ford, Carl Bouchard and David Goethel.

The project is called ULOT or “Ultra-low opening trawl’ for the basic concept that has brought this group together; a trawl that fishes for flounder ‘below’ the level that cod are found.  Not an easy task with all sorts of challenges for a net manufacturer to build and a fisherman to fish.  While this is the initial concept, the project leads are ready to ‘push the boundaries’ and to think of something entirely new to try.  The discussion meandered over some interesting concepts from using a topless trawl with seldom-before used headline to footline ratio of 2:1, to low opening nets less than 2’ high to combining these modifications with strategically placed restraining ropes or large mesh  to strategic placement of dark or light netting or even lasers to that would lead fish either toward their escape or capture in the net.

ULOT project co-leads Mike Pol (left) and Steve Eayrs (right) join
Dr. Paul Winger and Jon Knight (center, left to right) in Boston

The goal for the day was to come up with a handful of concepts to develop further.  Eventually, the discussion will converge on one or two ideas that will move to the project’s next phase that will include computer simulations, followed by production of a scale model to be tested in the fishing gear flume tank at the Marine Institute in St. John’s Newfoundland this winter.  In late winter, a full-scale design will be produced and testing under true fishing conditions here in the Gulf of Maine will begin next spring.  An ambitious schedule, but I could see that this group was ready for the challenge.  Stay tuned for project updates!

                   -  Dr. Erik Chapman - UNH

 for more information on this project, contact Steve Eayrs <> or Mike Pol <>

No comments:

Post a Comment