Fisheries dependent investigations

FDI works with fishermen to collect important, useful and unbiased data. This data is used to conduct fisheries research, stock assessments, and develop fisheries policy.


Fisheries Dependent Investigations (FDI) collects and manages data from local commercial fisheries. By working with fishermen, FDI collects important, useful and unbiased data. This data is used to:

  • Conduct scientific research
  • inform stock assessments
  • Craft policies and regulations

FDI also:

  • Completes sampling requests submitted by agency biologists and regional collaborators
  • Conducts long-term fisheries monitoring and research projects

Commercial fisheries sampling

FDI conducts sampling on the dock and on commercial fishing boats to collect fisheries data. They conduct sampling using protocols similar to the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Observer Program.

  • FDI conducts maintenance sampling trips as directed by agency fishery analysts and managers
  • Staff provide sampling for the agency's Lobster Investigations Project
  • FDI oversees sampling of experimental fisheries. This allows fishermen to show the effectiveness of new or modified fishing gear

These data support the management of commercial trawl, gillnet, long-line and dredge fisheries.

Commercial fish market sampling

FDI samples at fish markets and dealers in the state to assist in fish stock assessments. We provide scales and bones to the agency’s Age and Growth Laboratory to determine fish ages. Each year FDI consults with stock assessment biologists to determine where to direct sampling efforts. FDI biologists sample many commercial catches, including:

  • Striped bass
  • Dogfish
  • Squid
  • Black sea bass
  • Menhaden
  • Tautog
  • and other commercial catches

Atlantic herring portside sampling

FDI implements a large-scale portside sampling program with commercial herring and mackerel fishermen. These Massachusetts and Rhode Island fishermen have participated since 2010. This program collects high quality, cost-effective data for use in research and management. This data informs a bycatch avoidance program aimed at reducing catch of river herring at-sea. DMF, UMass-Dartmouth SMAST, and fishermen collaborate on this program. The Atlantic Herring Research Set-Aside (RSA) funds the program. The RSA allows participating fishermen to sell extra catch to generate the funds that sustain the sampling and research.

Acoustic tagging and telemetry studies

FDI staff use acoustic tags and monitoring equipment to study fish survival and behaviors. These acoustic tags and hydrophones act like a marine ‘EZ-Pass’ system for migrating fishes. FDI staff use the largest acoustic telemetry arrays on the east coast to study issues such as:

  • Inshore and offshore striped bass migrations in Massachusetts waters
  • Spring and winter spawning Atlantic cod movements in inshore Massachusetts waters
  • Post-release hook mortality and barotrauma effects on Atlantic cod, haddock and cusk

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