© 2020 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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