Counting stock for sustainability

Dr. Kevin Stokesbury's image-based, drop camera survey has been pivotal in the revival of the scallop industry, and has helped the city of New Bedford maintain its position as the nation’s No.1 fishing port for two decades.

Imagery of scallops at high density captured with underwater video technology developed by Dr.Kevin Stokesbury
Kevin Stokesbury's advanced underwater video technology captures imagery of scallops at high density (courtesy of K. Stokesbury).

Stock assessment is one of the many key areas of research being conducted by several professors at UMass Dartmouth's School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST). Efforts led by Professors Steve Cadrin, Pingguo He, and Kevin Stokesbury help characterize how offshore wind development interacts with the marine environment, including important fisheries and critical habitat.

Their findings are also critical in advancing offshore wind in a sustainable manner while minimizing impacts to existing marine activities and resources. Various types of surveys are used to collect data, including trawl, ventless trap, plankton, and the drop camera method developed by Dr. Kevin Stokesbury, Professor of Fisheries Oceanography at SMAST.

How the drop camera method works

Stokesbury’s drop camera survey comprises innovative underwater video technology that counts and identifies fish while immersed in the ocean, which helps protect specific habitats, identify specific species in every image, and guide regulators on the management of fishery. This image-based survey has been pivotal in the revival of the scallop industry, and has helped the city of New Bedford maintain its position as the nation’s No.1 fishing port for two decades.

Stokesbury explains that image-based surveys allow for initial samples to be revisited and are non-invasive compared to traditional survey methods that typically involve nets or dredges. “Protocols for image-based surveys can vary greatly but should be driven by target species behavior and survey objectives. 

Recent grants & awards for stock assessment research

Stokesbury was awarded a total of $2,651,053 in FY20 by various organizations to conduct stock assessment research using the drop camera method and other survey types.

  • Clearwater Seafoods has awarded him $302,173 for drop camera surveys of Browns Bank and the Canadian Portion of Georges Bank and $194,811 for a drop camera survey of Patagonian Scallop Management Unit B.
  • The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has awarded him $350,000 to further develop a groundfish survey that combines traditional fisherman's knowledge.
  • The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has awarded him $278,592 for a lobster larval survey for regional fisheries monitoring in Southern New England.
  • Vineyard Wind has awarded him $253,568 for a drop camera survey as well as $283,944 for a ventless trap survey.
  • NOAA Fisheries, through their Research Set-Aside Programs, has awarded him $329,584 for a high-resolution drop camera survey examining the scallop recruitment event; $304,191 for a seasonal video-trawl survey to assess the population size of yellowtail; and $229,178 for a high-resolution drop camera surveys to track scallop and predator population in Nantucket Lightship, and examine the effects of increase quadrat sampling. He also received $129,012 for a drop camera survey to track scallop aggregations in closed area II access.


Departments Office of Research Administration, Departments SMAST Fisheries Oceanography, MUST: Marine and UnderSea Technology, News and Public Information, Research