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NOAA Grants Support Technical Solutions to Bycatch Reduction

Jennifer  Goebel (NOAA)
(978) 281-9175
(978) 290-0203 (Cell)
September 1, 2016

Tagged Thorny Skate (Credit: New England Aquarium)

NOAA’s Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program (BREP) has awarded $889,948 to 6 institutions in the Greater Atlantic Region.  In collaboration with commercial fishermen, researchers will develop bycatch reduction technologies and fishing practices to address some of the region’s most pressing bycatch challenges. 

“These grants will use the wisdom of commercial fishermen to explore ways to reduce the bycatch of cod and yellowtail flounder – two important ‘choke species’ that affected fishermen’s ability to harvest other stocks,” said John Bullard, Regional Administrator.

Three of the projects will focus on reducing the bycatch of depleted groundfish stocks, such as Atlantic cod and yellowtail flounder. 

  • In the Gulf of Maine, researchers from the University of New Hampshire will test a low-profile bottom trawl fitted with a rope “deflector panel”, in an attempt to guide Atlantic cod up and over the mouth of the net, while retaining target flounder species. 
  • The Cornell Cooperative Extension will expand their successful yellowtail flounder bycatch avoidance network to include northeast multispecies vessels operating in southern New England and Mid-Atlantic waters, helping them to maximize catch of healthy stocks, while minimizing yellowtail flounder bycatch.  
  • Researchers from the University of Rhode Island will work with general category scallop vessels to test whether a Flatfish Deflector Bar can be affixed in front of the dredge to help herd flatfish away from the path of the dredge.  

In the Mid-Atlantic, researchers from the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore will evaluate the impact of bottom tending mobile gears on one of the most common habitat forming cold-water corals in the region, Alcyonaceans.  This research will assess the condition, age, extent of damage, and recovery potential for these corals, which provide essential fish habitat in the Mid-Atlantic Bight.

The University of New England, in collaboration with the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance (Alliance), will use field observations and satellite telemetry to estimate the discard mortality rate of barndoor skates captured in sink gillnet gear in the Gulf of Maine. This project will build on promising research initiated by the Alliance in 2014 to better understand post release mortality of barndoor skate in the sink gillnet fishery, and to investigate whether a market could be established without significantly increasing fishing related mortality for this recovering stock.  

Researchers from Gettysburg College will build on field trials conducted in 2014 and 2015 that found low frequency acoustic devices on gillnets reduced green sea turtle bycatch rates by 65%. Working with collaborators in Baja California, Mexico, investigators will refine this newly developed technology for potential use in gillnet fisheries.

Learn more about these projects and other Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program grants.