Using Observers to Monitor Status of Atlantic....
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GRANT NUMBER:  NA76FD0101           NMFS NUMBER:  96-NER-036

REPORT TITLE:  Using Observers to Monitor Status of Atlantic Herring Spawning Stocks and Groundfish Bycatch in the Gulf Of Maine

AUTHOR: David K. Stevenson

PUBLISH DATE:  February 17, 1999

AVAILABLE FROM:  National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Region, One Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.  TELEPHONE:  (978) 281-9267


The first objective of this project was to collect bycatch data and determine what percentage of the catch made by purse seiners and mid-water trawlers was composed of groundfish and other species and to analyze the data for spatial and temporal patterns.   Results of the bycatch monitoring indicate that the herring fishery is a clean one.   The only two species that showed up in the catches in significant quantities were dogfish and mackerel.  In the 50 purse seine sets and 54 trawl tows that were monitored, groundfish accounted for 0.05% of the total trawl catch and 0.0001% of the purse seine catch, and those percentages reflect small amounts of whiting.  It should be understood, however, that mid-water trawlers make about 800 trips a year, so that a sample of 27 trips only represents about 3.5% of all trips.  Occasional catches of groundfish could occur in this fishery when a net gets too close to the bottom or when groundfish (particularly juveniles) rise up to mid-water.  It would be a mistake to conclude from this study that there is no groundfish bycatch in mid-water gear (or purse seines).  It is clear that whatever bycatch does occur in the herring fishery, it is the exception rather than the rule.  The second objective of this project was to use observers to train fishermen to collect catch and effort information and record other observations on the distribution, size, and spawning condition of herring harvested at sea.  A form was designed for this purpose and given to a number of fishermen.   However, no one was interested in filling it out.  There were several good reasons why this happened.  First, much of the information requested was duplicative of information that fishermen are required to include in their vessel trip reports, so they couldn't understand why they should have to fill out two forms.  Second, because this was a volunteer program, it was impossible to sustain the fishermen's interest once the observer was off the boat.  After a couple of months, the fill-in form was abandoned for a voluntary phone-in system.  The fishermen are now using the phone-in system to report daily catches and fishing locations (but not haul-by-haul or set-by-set information).  Fishermen generally prefer making a phone call to writing information down on paper.  Perhaps in the future, a phone-in system could be used to obtain more detailed catch and effort information from selected fishermen.

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