Researchers at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST) are collaborating with the fisheries industry to address conservation issues related to bycatch of yellowtail flounder. Since 2013 the industry and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries have funded a series of open cod-end video trawl surveys on Georges Bank. Last week, SMAST researchers conducted a survey with a focus on yellowtail flounder, which may be a limiting catch species for the scallop industry.
“When we last surveyed this area in fall 2016, species listed as greatest in abundance were skates, scallops, fourspot flounder, yellowtail flounder and sea robin,” said Travis Lowery, a technical associate at SMAST. The most recent survey of the area reveals the greatest abundance of skates, red hake, haddock, scallops, and dogfish.
“Our catch of yellowtail flounder was lower than we had observed in previous surveys, but the fishing area was also reduced due to a high abundance of lobster gear limiting where we could sample,” said Dr. Kevin Stokesbury, professor of fisheries oceanography and manager of the Marine Fisheries Field Research Group at SMAST. According to NOAA Fisheries, US wild-caught yellowtail flounder, a shared stock between the US and Canada, is a smart seafood choice because it is responsibly harvested under US regulations. “It is a fishery that was once plentiful and is now reduced, which may limit fishermen’s ability to harvest scallop,” said Stokesbury.
During the weeklong survey, researchers caught an average of 42 yellowtail flounder per tow based on a total of 25 tows (14 open, 11 closed). Industry collaborators are committed to working with SMAST scientists to understand how the yellowtail flounder species on Georges Bank could affect the way scallops are collected and result in a need for fishermen to modify their fishing gear. Since January 2018, the industry has supplied $60,000 in donations. “This includes 24 different companies, comprised of 96 individual fishing vessels, Eastern Fisheries, and the Whaling City Display Auction,” said Kyle Cassidy, technical associate at SMAST.
Assistant Research Professor N. David Bethoney, Nick Calabrese, Kyle Cassidy, Travis Lowery, and Cait Riley of Stokesbury’s Marine Fisheries Field Research Group conducted the survey. Captains Ron Borjeson, Tim Barrett, Andrew Earle, and Robert Kohl served as crewmembers. Use of the F/V Justice vessel to conduct the research was donated by Nordic Inc. Fuel was supplied by Bay Fuels Inc. Food was donated by New Bedford Ship Supply Company.