PROBLEMS WITH THE GROUNDFISH SURVEY
An observant fisherman alerted the operators’ of the Albatross IV to the problem with the uneven trawl wires shortly after the wires were installed in February 2000. In the spring of 2002 the Science Center checked the wire, but now “admits” that the way the wire was initially checked was “not effective”. It was not until September 2002 (almost 3 years after the installation and the fisherman’s warning) that the gear was properly checked and the error ultimately found.
In a press conference, the Science Center “admitted”
that they do not have an established protocol for checking any of the fishing
gear used in the survey. (Boston Herald 9/25/02)
Why is this important?
Science 101 teaches that good scientists calibrate their equipment before beginning an “experiment”.
Survey data is used to estimate abundance and fishing mortality rates. The faulty gear affects a total of eight surveys, and therefore influences the most recent data that could be used to determine the present status of all of our fisheries resources in the Northeast (with the exception of scallops). Of most immediate concern is that the data that will be used to determine the current status of the groundfish resource, prior to the severe restrictions contemplated by Amendment 13, is seriously flawed.
What else is wrong with the survey gear?
Fishermen’s observations from Albatross IV cruise 9/24-9/27/02:
Prior to departure, fishermen examined the net
The “cans” on the net displayed atypical flat spots from wear. This suggested that the cans were being trapped under the footrope, which would cause the net to work improperly. (This was later confirmed through observation when the net was actually deployed. The Albatross crew was unaware of this “snarl” but was alerted to the problem by the fishermen aboard.)
Even when the net was towed with equal wire lengths, the “wings” of the net are not making contact with the bottom. The sweep and the wings must be on the bottom in order to catch fish; otherwise the fish will escape under the net.During the cruise, problems with the gear that would also cause net distortion and impact catchability were observed:
There were fewer “cookies” on the “sweep” of the port wing, making the sweep sixteen inches shorter than the starboard wing.