A Marine Fisheries biologist
checks out the catch on a Resource Assesment Survey Cruise.
Resource conservation laws require that the best scientific
information be used as the basis for management actions. The
Resource Assessment Project's mission is to collect and analyze
data to contribute to this process. Coastal and estuarine
species found in Massachusetts' territorial waters vary widely
in abundance and diversity. The Resource Assessment Project
samples these fish using standardized spring and fall surveys
of Massachusetts' territorial waters using an otter-trawl.
The surveys are timed to coincide with seasons when either
adults or juveniles are available inshore.
NOAA Research Vessel, Gloria
Michele, under way.
MarineFisheries contracts the 65-foot NOAA research
vessel, Gloria Michelle, for these surveys. The objective
of this project, the east coast's longest ongoing inshore
survey, is to obtain fishery independent data on the distribution,
abundance, size and age composition of finfish as well as
some crustaceans and mollusks. The project's staff prepares
scientific reports and gives technical presentations to fishery
managers for use in developing policies governing the use
and protection of fishery resources.
Stock assessment analyses rely on various sources of information
other than surveys to estimate resource abundance and trends.
The principle information comes from recreational and commercial
fisheries. Fishery-independent surveys operate differently
from other types of fishing. While other fishing operations
seek out the greatest aggregations of fish to maximize catch
rates, trawl surveys fish in a standardized manner over a
wide area to annually provide an unbiased population abundance
index. Our survey is based on a stratified random design that
uses five bio-geographic regions. We divide each region into
depth zones called strata. About 100 stations from each survey
are allocated based on approximate proportion of each stratum's
area. Survey tow location is randomly selected within each
stratum and based on presence of "good" bottom and
absence of fixed gear.
Most of the recreationally - and commercially important fish
species caught within state waters belong to stocks with wide
geographic distributions. With this perspective, project data
have supplemented the National Marine Fisheries Service/ Northeast
Fishery Science Center (NMFS/NEFSC) and Atlantic Marine Fisheries
Commission (ASMFC) stock assessments in various ways and results
have been used by ASMFC and regional management councils in
managing inter-jurisdictional fishery resources. Project personnel
have published peer reviewed scientific papers, serve on many
interstate scientific committees and working groups investigating
both single and multi-species assemblages.
Although the trawl survey captures about 90 different species
each year, project emphasis has been directed toward sampling
some of the state's most important finfish resources. These
include winter flounder, summer flounder, Atlantic cod, scup
and black sea bass.
The Resource Assessment Project also conducts
an annual estuarine seine survey to monitor spawning success
of winter flounder in six estuaries on southern Cape Cod.
We sample estuaries with a small mesh haul seine on the top
half of the tide when winter flounder young-of-the-year are
feeding in the intertidal and shallow subtidal zones.
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