NOAA Fisheries Service and the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) have announced that 10 research projects have been selected for support through the Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside (RSA) program.
The projects address NEFMC-established research priorities for one of the USA’s highest-valued single species commercial fisheries.
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Fourteen researchers from four organisations in Massachusetts and Virginia will be working as investigators on the projects, which are valued at just over $10 million.
“The Atlantic Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside Program is unique in many ways. In particular, the industry deserves credit for supporting research that improves our understanding of scallop stocks,” said Bill Karp, science and research director of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. All of the projects partner researchers and fishermen, and at-sea operations are conducted using fishing vessels as research platforms.
During the upcoming fishing year, surveys will be conducted to provide a comprehensive picture of the scallop resource by the end of this summer, and are expected to support the Council’s area management decisions for 2016 and beyond.
The Sea Scallop RSA program will also continue to support bycatch reduction research in 2015 through dredge conservation engineering, a fleet communication network, and research into the distribution patterns of key bycatch species relative scallop fishing grounds.
In response to sea scallop fishermen’s interest in improving the performance of a dredge designed to reduce bycatch called the Turtle Deflector Dredge, Coonamessett Farm Foundation will investigate the effect of dredge tow speed on capture of target and non-target fish species. It will also continue testing general category scallop dredge bag and twine top modifications to reduce finfish bycatch, with particular focus on yellowtail, winter, and windowpane flounders.
For the fourth consecutive year The University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) will receive RSA funding to help support its yellowtail flounder bycatch avoidance system. By maintaining a fleet communication network, sea scallop vessels can share information during fishing operations about ‘hotspots’ where high yellowtail bycatch is occurring. This helps vessels ensure that the fishery does not exceed its yellowtail bycatch limit. This funding year, SMAST will also conduct a comprehensive review of this bycatch avoidance network to evaluate program performance.