Project contact: William Hoffman
About the Survey
The Division of Marine Fisheries (MarineFisheries) has been selected by NOAA Fisheries (NMFS) to launch a pilot program for Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod surveys beginning November 2003. Working in close coordination with Maine, New Hampshire, and NMFS officials and scientists at the Northeast Fisheries Center, MarineFisheries will be the Program Manager for this new survey pilot program using commercial fishing vessels.
According to MarineFisheries’ Director Paul Diodati, "This type of program was championed by MarineFisheries in 1999 through the Massachusetts Fisheries Recovery Commission. In the intervening years the benefits of this type of collaborative research with the fishing industry have become obvious. Now we have federal funds and widespread support to move forward." Director Diodati added, "These surveys represent a very timely opportunity for the states and the federal government to work together to improve our knowledge of GOM cod distribution and to gather information sure to improve cod stock assessments. Involving commercial fishermen at the ground level and using their knowledge of cod movements and net design will be tremendous assets. It will demonstrate to fishermen that those who assess cod abundance and manage their fisheries understand fishermen have a wealth of knowledge to contribute."
One and a half million dollars has been provided by NMFS for this survey work involving 10-day survey cruises using four commercial vessels fishing standardized bottom trawls. Deputy Director, Dr. David Pierce, one of the originators of this approach for improving assessments, expressed his gratitude to NMFS and the other states that supported MarineFisheries’ lead role in these industry-based surveys. He stated, "Everyone seems to understand that we are committed to making this research concept work well. This pilot program must be successful to justify a long-term program. Challenges and obstacles will be overcome with fishermen's knowledge and expertise. Value of these surveys is unquestionable, and we all look forward to this new research partnership with commercial fishermen in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine."
An important part of the survey design was the selection of some stations by fishermen and their involvement in determining sampling strata (distinct areas with set numbers of stations). Fishermen selecting stations is a new twist to the stratified random sampling design used by NMFS in its bottom trawl surveys of fish abundance. A Survey Implementation Team, including representatives from the commercial fishing industry, has worked out these details in time for a November start date for the first cod survey.
This new partnership was coordinated by the NMFS Cooperative Research Partners Initiative (CRPI) with its objective of "collecting data that will improve our knowledge of fish populations and translate this data as an expanded information base for monitoring of existing and developing new fishery management strategies."
Updates & Acknowledgements
The Division of Marine Fisheries has finalized the Cod IBS Survey and submitted final reports to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Northeast Cooperative Research Partners Program (NCRPP). The project was discontinued in 2007 due to funding constraints, however prior to finishing the project all data was placed in master format on the WHOI/SUN database in Woods Hole, MA and is available upon request.
We would like to thank the fishermen, scientists, sea samplers and everyone else who helped in implementing the survey. This project was well received and was an overall great success.
In August of 2008 the final survey went before a peer-review panel. The panel concluded that, “the Cod IBS provides valuable information on cod in the Gulf of Maine when no other sources of data are available” and is “a good example of a cooperative project.” The panel agreed that the survey “provides high resolution information on the spatial and temporal distribution, size composition, maturity and potentially age of cod and augments existing surveys.”