2008 Annual Report
Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Spotlight on Community

Fishing Area Selectivity Tool (FAST)

Gulf of Maine

The Fishing Area Selectivity Tool, or ‘FAST’ project, is being developed through a partnership of GMRI researchers, community program staff, fisheries managers and sector fishermen. The purpose of FAST is to conduct research and develop a tool to collect and share real time spatial and temporal information that enables fishermen to avoid areas with a large presence of fish they may not be allowed to catch or spawning aggregations of note.

Work on the project currently involves mapping data from the Gulf of Maine and Massachusetts Bay ‘rolling closed areas’ which are not open to commercial fishing during April, May and June. The analysis aims to identify particular spawning trends and determine what additional information needs to be collected.¬† These areas were established in 1999 to lessen fishing effort but the management of New England’s groundfish fishery has changed dramatically in the past year. Cooperatives of fishermen called sectors are now given an allocation of fish they can catch each year. Under this new system rolling closures may not be the best way to protect spawning grounds or particular species. ¬†With the permission of fishery managers, we intend to pilot the FAST project in these rolling closed areas. That way we will both know more about what is actually happening in the ecosystem and test a system that would enable fishermen to communicate to colleagues and fishery managers about spawning areas that they should avoid.

A workshop with the fishing industry in the Fall of 2011 will determine how we can collect and share information. Many in the industry are putting new electronic vessel trip reporting software on vessels and it is hoped that this kind of technology could be useful for the project.


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