© 2019 by Carolyn Miller
Overview Adult Version
How many fish in the sea and how do you count them?
The problem with developing and implementing good fishing
regulations is the difficulty involved in securing data that gives an
accurate understanding about stock assessments. All too often what
environmentalists and legislators say and the actual experience of
commercial and recreational fishers, varies greatly.
The Northeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program
(NEAMAP) is a state and federal program whose mission is the
collection and management of fisheries-independent data. This
information does not rely on any commercial or recreational
reporting and is gathered in a scientific manner.
In fall, 2006, NEAMAP, working with research scientists from the
Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), did its first pilot study.
Since then a spring trawl and an autumn trawl have been done.
A map of the area from Martha's Vineyards to Cape Hatteras, N.C.
was subjected to a random design broken into longitudinal and
depth variations, creating stations and a standardized protocol
developed for every stop (station). A specially designed trawl net is
pulled for exactly twenty minutes and once the catch is pulled up, it
is quickly sorted by species and counted; then the fish are returned
to the sea ALIVE.
A few pre-selected specimen are kept for side studies in the
laboratory located onboard the research vessel. Data is gathered
from fish scales and otoliths (ear bones) to determine if one or the
other is a better indicator of age. Genetic analysis tracks any
bacteria and skin lesions. A water quality measuring device
determines how varying conditions in the sea affect the catch. The
team tags all sharks and Atlantic sturgeon. All this information is
needed for accurate stock assessment. The scientists take this
information back to the Institute for analysis. Continued...
The final results are used by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries
Commission (ASMFC), the Mid Atlantic Fisheries Management
Council (MAFMC), the New England Fisheries Management
Council (NEFMC), and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center
(NEFSC) a part of National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
Improvements in the collection of fisheries-independent data
like NEAMAP is providing a more accurate understanding of
the status of life in the Atlantic Ocean leading to improvements
in fisheries management which should translate to more realistic
and accurate decisions.
NEAMAP is a project of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science,
The College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia.
Lead Scientist on this trawl: Jim Gartland
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