My family owned a small Eastern-rig dragger until I was 11 and I tell visitors to my area that back then I remember a lot of old wooden fishing boats in the fleet. I remember a lot of fishermen but not a lot of fish.Today many of our local stocks are rebounding or have rebounded already, but our fleet is a shadow of its former self. For those that are left, they must adhere to strict quotas and target the healthy stocks like haddock, monkfish and flounder.
Although many fishermen I know disagree with the scientific assessment of cod, they still have to play by the rules. Which is why a new type of trawl net, designed to limit cod is such great news. Regardless of whether the scientific data on cod is accurate, this innovation, a collaborative effort between fishermen, scientists and gear makers, is good news for everyone!
The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) reports that the ultra-low-opening bottom trawl (ULOT) minimizes impact of trawling activity on cod, but maintains catches of flounders, monkfish, and skates. The ULOT works by having a narrower opening than the usual trawl net. With just a two foot vertical opening, cod can swim up and over the mouth of the net. Preliminary testing showed cod catch rates reduced by approximately 45% with no loss of flatfish. Another advantage was that fuel consumption was reduced by 7-10%.
What this means is our local fleet of small, independent fishermen can target yellowtail flounder, dabs, grey sole, skate, monkfish, and whiting, avoid most of the codfish, and save some fuel as well. The ULOT net sounds like a clear winner to me. In order to promote this new trawl gear, there will be nets available in three sizes to fishermen for 2017. The ULOT nets will be available on a free loan.