UMass Dartmouth researchers designing new technology to reduce the catch of undersized haddock on Georges Bank

School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) Professor Pingguo He part of research team testing European technology to improve size of caught haddock and maximize fishing opportunity for the industry

The catch reduction of juvenile haddock will lead to a healthier stock of haddock and robust fisheries resources.

UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) Professor Pingguo He is part of a research effort to design and test a new system for reducing the catch of undersized haddock on Georges Bank. The collaborative research effort includes SMAST researchers, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, along with the fishing and fishing gear technology industry. The research aims to adapt current European models with considerations of vessel size and fishing regulations in New England. The project is funded through the 2014-2015 Saltonstall-Kennedy (SK) Grant Program.

The goal of the proposed research is to test a modified Norwegian grid system on the Georges Bank haddock fishery. The “Sort-X small haddock reduction grid system” will be an addition to the existing fishing trawls on most fishing vessels, thus avoiding costly gear modifications if implemented. Adapting this system to the Georges Bank haddock fishery will help improve the size of haddock caught by fishing vessels. The technology will also allow juvenile haddock to be released from the trawl before reaching the ocean surface. The catch reduction of juvenile haddock will lead to a healthier stock of haddock and robust fisheries resources.

Sort X

The long-term sustainability of the haddock fishery relies on the protection of young and immature fish. Recent research trips revealed that as much as two-thirds of haddock brought to the deck of the vessel might be below the minimum size. In those cases, fishing crews are forced to discard the small haddock affecting the mortality rate of the fish, while also counting against fishermen’s quotas.

The use of a similar grid system in Norway and other European countries began in the 1990s.  Through its development the catch of undersized fish reduced substantially. Additionally, the use of the grids eventually gave fishermen access to waters that had been previously closed due to the high proportion of undersized fish.

The effectiveness of the modified technology will be determined based on the reduced catch of juvenile haddock and increased number of juvenile of fish escaping at ocean depth rather than aboard the fishing vessel. The research team will conduct comparative fishing trials using a commercial fishing vessel and utilize video observations of the grid system to understand the behavior of fish and their escape from the grid during different phases of fishing operations.

Professor He brings more than 25 years of experience in research, development and instruction in fishing gear technology, fish behavior near fishing gears, fish physiology, conservation engineering, and design and test of bycatch reduction devices for commercial fishing gears. He has conducted field work in Canada, Scotland, Japan, China and the United States. Dr. He has also produced numerous publications and reports related to fishing gear, fish behavior, and conservation engineering.

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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