A team of scientists from UMass Dartmouth's School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST), accompanied by local fishermen, are ready to sail tomorrow, Wednesday, November 6, from Fish Island in New Bedford, at 8am, on their next experimental trip to Georges Bank using new technology to apply new sampling techniques to estimate yellowtail flounder and other groundfish abundance.
The goal of the exploration is to develop a new groundfish survey that combines traditional fishermen's knowledge with advanced video observations designed for nets and state-of-the art benthic imagery and sonar. The objective is to estimate the abundance, spatial distribution, size structure, and length-weight relationship of the Georges Bank yellowtail flounder stock on the southern flank of Georges Bank. The team will also estimate these parameters for cod, haddock, monkfish, skate and other groundfish. This will be a non-intrusive ecosystem-based sampling effort.
The present estimate of yellowtail flounder is extremely low and the resulting low allowable catch will severely curtail landings in both the scallop and groundfish fleets causing major economic hardship in Massachusetts fishing communities.
Tomorrow's exploration builds upon cooperative research which has improved fishing stock assessment and saved hundreds of millions of dollars for the fishing industry. In the past two decades, the scallop fishery has experienced an immense turnaround as a result of similar efforts to tomorrow's exploration. SMAST conducted surveys provided more accurate estimates of scallop population, including a 2003 expanded video survey covering the entire scallop resource of Georges Bank, which doubled the estimate of scallop abundance, worth approximately $2.4 billion. Today, the Atlantic sea scallop stock has rebuilt to about $455 million, annually.