$450,0000 in state funding of cooperative fisheries research at UMass Dartmouth holds promise of better habitat management

New innovative strategies at School for Marine Science and Technology aimed at informing policy makers and federal regulators

UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Divina Grossman and officials from the University's School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST) praised legislators today for their continued commitment to invest in cooperative fisheries research that engages scientists and fishermen in the pursuit of accurate data.

Chancellor Grossman was joined by state Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford; state Senator Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford; state Rep. Christopher Markey, D-Dartmouth; SMAST Dean Steven Lohrenz, and Chair of SMAST's Department of Fisheries Oceanography Dr. Kevin D. E. Stokesbury, at SMAST's campus in New Bedford, to highlight the importance of collaborative research to produce the best science for sustainable fisheries.

"Thanks to the leadership of our SouthCoast delegation, funding is once again secured to advance this important research at SMAST," said Chancellor Grossman. "UMass Dartmouth is fully committed to research that strengthens the scientific basis for fisheries management. Such research advanced the University's mission to be an anchor of social and economic development for the region."

The Fiscal Year 2015 budget recently enacted by the Legislature and signed by the Governor includes $450,000 for SMAST scientists, working in partnership with the state Division of Marine Fisheries. The funding supports the development of new sampling techniques using video cameras attached to specially designed fishing nets, to measure the population of various fish species. This funding supplements $400,000 contained in last year's budget.

"The fishing industry has been a principal economic driver of our local economy for centuries,'' said Sen. Montigny. "Federal mandates have been financially devastating to fishing families and our fleet. It is my hope that with this additional state funding we can continue the groundbreaking research by SMAST which will give us the tools necessary to combat the questionable data NMFS utilizes in making its stock assessments and catch limits."

"SMAST's hard work in producing the best science available is essential to preserving fishermen's jobs and maintaining the fish population," said Representative Cabral (D-New Bedford), who filed the budget amendment for the SMAST funding. "New Bedford can and should be a world leader in fisheries research."

Rep. Markey added, "The key to a rational approach to the complex issues facing our fishing industry is excellent science, and this funding is aimed at supporting that effort. SMAST has a long and distinguished track record providing trustworthy science that that we can base our decisions on, so I look forward to their findings."

SMAST/DMF partnership, know as the Marine Fisheries Institute (MFI) seeks to develop scientifically-based innovative and practical fisheries management applications contributing to the understanding, management, economic growth and sustainability of our oceans and the communities that border the ocean.

"Continued investment in the innovative work by SMAST's researchers is pivotal to efforts to develop improved approaches to management of the region's fish stocks," said Dean Lohrenz. "We are grateful to our region's legislative leaders and their colleagues for supporting our research to help address issues that are critically important for our fisheries and fishing communities."

"We would also like to recognize and commend the Massachusetts State Legislature for providing this funding for the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute," said Dr. William Karp, Science and Research Director the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center, which is based in Woods Hole. "We view SMAST as one of our most important regional partners. Dr. Stokesbury's successes in improving stock assessment surveys through technological innovation and initiating and maintaining effective research collaborations with the fishing are particularly important to our shared objectives and this new funding will allow his important work to continue."

Using last year's funding, Dr. Stokesbury, other SMAST scientists, and local fishermen, embarked on 7-10 day explorations to Georges Bank using the new survey methods to estimate the abundance of yellowtail flounder and other groundfish. The survey utilized the technology to estimate the abundance, spatial distribution, size structure, and length-weight relationship of the Georges Bank yellowtail flounder stock on the southern flank of Georges Bank.

"Past and present research, which has improved fish stock assessment, demonstrates working cooperatively with government and non-government agencies and the fishing industry helps move fisheries management forward," said Dr. Stokesbury. "Working with our partners on future collaborations will continue these efforts and support sound management of our fisheries."

The focus at SMAST is on interdisciplinary basic-to-applied marine sciences and the development of related innovative technologies. In addition to the scholarly marine science and technology communities, the SMAST mission also emphasizes interaction with regional industry, and government and non-governmental agencies on compelling regional marine-related issues and technological development.

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