Bycatch Avoidance Programs

SMAST Yellowtail Bycatch Avoidance Program

Capt. Chris Wright enters yellowtail bycatch information into Boatracs reporting macro onboard the F/V Huntress

SMAST expanded the Bycatch Avoidance Program in fishing year 2014 to include open area fishing grounds in Southern New England and on Georges Bank, and include windowpane flounder in addition to yellowtail flounder bycatch advisories.  We created new reporting grids to cover the Southern New England Open Area, the Northern Open Area and Southern Open Area of Georges Bank and the scallop rotational access areas.  

The Georges Bank yellowtail flounder allocation to the scallop fishery was reduced by over 40% in 2014 to 51 metric tons (~112,000 pounds).  Exceeding the Annual Catch Limits can result in costly time/area closures of prime scallop fishing grounds.  

The Bycatch Avoidance program uses near real-time communications with fishing vessels to determine the location of bycatch hotspots to assist scallopers harvest their target scallop allocation without triggering bycatch closures.

Deckload of scallops on the F/V Huntress

The program was started with the collaboration of the scallop fleet and currently there are 243 participants using the hotspot information to avoid yellowtail bycatch. 

Yellowtail Flounder Bycatch Update: Latest Bycatch Update

The 2014 SMAST Yellowtail Bycatch Avoidance Program began on March 1, 2014. 
All information to participate can be found in the links below:

For more information or to sign up to participate, contact:        

Cate O'Keefe  508-910-6340
Greg DeCelles


River herring avoidance in the Atlantic herring and mackerel fisheries

Alewife in herring catch

The incidental catch of river herring by vessels targeting Atlantic herring and mackerel has become a concern for their conservation. Though the direct effect of this bycatch on river herring populations is unknown, managers have created river herring catch limits. If river herring catch limits are reached, large areas of the Atlantic herring fishery or the entire mackerel fishery would be closed. 

This collaborative project between mid-water trawl fishermen , Rhode Island bottom trawl fishermen, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and SMAST seeks to reduce river herring and shad bycatch independent of management action; aiding in the effort to rebuild river herring and providing fishermen with a tool to avoid area closures.

Sampling catch of herring boat

The project involves increasing portside sampling , a near real-time information system on the location bycatch events, and testing if oceanographic features can be used to indicate areas with a high probability of bycatch. The project was started in 2010, with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife foundation. It is now sustained by The Nature Conservancy and the Atlantic herring Research Set Aside (RSA) program.


Bottom Trawl - Winter 2015 Last Update: 2/27 

Bycatch classifcations were changed in 2015 to reflect river herring catch limits. HIGH bycatch events now relfect a rate at which river herring catch limits will be reached before Atlantic herring catch limits. This resulted in lowering the HIGH bycatch threshold for bottom trawl vessels from 5% to 1% and from 1.25% to 0.6% for mid-water trawl vessels.

Midwater Trawl - Winter 2015 Last Update: 3/20

Herring RSA Information: Through the Atlantic herring RSA program, SMAST aplied for and recieved 1,974 mt of Atlantic herring quota in 2014 and 2015 to generate funds for the river herring bycatch avoidance program. The 2015 RSA quota will be distributed to companies that agreed to be held to a higher standard while harvesting RSA quota and meet certain criteria of the river herring bycatch avoidance program. The RESPONSIBLE FISHING AGREEMENT can be accessed hereFunds generated by the harvest of herring RSA quota are also used to monitor the landings of these vessels when they return to port. 

Final 2014 RSA Landings and River herring bycatch

Area Quota Distributed RSA Trips Taken RSA Trips Monitored Atlantic Herring Landed River Herring Bycatch
1A 936 mt           15              15        757.5 mt          4.0 mt
1B 138 mt            0      
2 900 mt            0      


MyMARACOOS (Bycatch and Oceanographic Conditions)

Squid Trawl Network River herring avoidance

Past Avoidance System Results

For more information, contact:       

Brad Schondelmeier  978-282-0308 x123

David Bethoney  508-910-6386 

Bill Hoffman   978-282-0308 x106