Jon Loehrke, Collaborative Research Technician
I just returned from a five-day cruise onboard the F/V Lady Jane out of Gloucester, MA. This was a trip focused on testing the feasibility of cod-end catch sensors for sector vessels. A cod-end catch sensor is a device that is placed on the end of a trawl net (cod-end) and measures the spread of the twine mesh. Once the mesh spreads a certain distance, due to an increased volume of fish, the sensor sends a “full” signal to the vessel.
As you might imagine, it can be very beneficial to know how many fish are in your gear!
This is especially true under groundfish sector operations, where the vessel can be penalized for catching too many fish. That is why Joe Orlando (F/V Padre Pio) approached Dan Salerno (former GMRI employee who is now managing Northeast Fishing Sector II); Libby Etrie, Southern Sector Coordinator at GMRI; and the staff at the Northeast Seafood Coalition to craft the proposal for this project. (A classic example of cooperative research at its finest!)
I have been out in the field testing three catch sensors (shown at right): Simrad PI50 (cylindrical yellow), Notus Trawl Master (red), and the Netmind catch sensor (square yellow). GMRI has a contract with six vessels and we are interested to know how effective the sensor may be as a tool to help manage the sector allocation, reduce bycatch, shorten bottom contact, conserver fuel, and improve catch quality.
We have many more sea-days to go before the project is complete. Early results indicate that the catch sensor is a viable tool for sector operations. As captain Dan Murhpy (F/V Bantry Bay) testifies: “Before I fretted that I would come out here and accidently make a large tow. Now I can fish and be assured that I’m not likely to exceed my allocation.”
Many thanks go to the captains and crew of the F/V Lady Jane, Horizon, Lisa Ann II, Bantry Bay, Julie Ann II, and Capt. Dominic. Simrad Fisheries graciously donated equipment without which this project would not have been feasible. Thanks also to Libby and Dan for putting this project together. It is a fantastic example of how GMRI can step up to catalyze some serious change within our bioregion.