Friday, June 29, 2012

The Challenge of Linking Fisheries Science and Management

June 12, 2012 marked the beginning of a three-day workshop that brought together fishermen and scientists to review and discuss the known information on the Atlantic cod stock structure, both past and present.  This workshop was Phase I of a three-phase approach to evaluate the present Atlantic cod stocks and determine if adjustments need to be made.  Hosted by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute at the Sheraton Hotel in Portsmouth, NH, this workshop focused on the stock evaluation, including: a general overview of stock structure boundaries, how current management of the stocks was developed, broad and fine scale population structure, a comparison of historical vs. present distributions, implications for stock assessment, and possibility of future stock changes.  Phase II will focus on how potential changes to the cod stock structure will influence science and management as well as the advantages and disadvantages of changes to the stock structure.a ility of future stock changes,ed during the workshop? This is confusing to me. ted and whomever hosted it), this workshop focu

Over the course of the three days, a variety of information was presented to the attending group.  In addition to presentations on the current science being done on cod stock structures, fishermen expressed their shared concern for the depleting cod stocks.  From the fishermen’s point of view there is both an economic concern as well as a concern for the preservation of the fishery.  They expressed a strong willingness to help develop a method for allowing the stocks to rebuild, but emphasized the importance of including sustainability of their own businesses into the planning.  For example, fishermen often target areas that support spawning fish because they support larger fish that fetch a higher sale price.  If these areas are closed for portions of the year to protect cod, fishermen feel that it is important that somehow they are allowed to offset this loss later in the season. 

Many of the attending scientists felt that there was not sufficient information available to justify strong management response to a revised understanding of cod stock structure.  However, towards the end of the third day it became clear that no solid recommendations backed by both scientists and fishermen would be found.   So the challenge remains:  how do we use incomplete scientific information to inform management in ways that ensure continued viability of both fish and fishermen?

For additional information about this topic, please visit:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A new potential equipment option for Great Bay oyster farmers

A team of three Australians representing the company SEAPA visited the Judd Gregg Marine Research Complex last Friday as part of their efforts to expand sales and offer expertise to existing users of their equipment. The team - Garry Thompson, Leon Stott and his wife Chris - talked with local oyster farmers about high quality basket developed by SEAPA to improve oyster quality and decrease labor costs for farms in Australia, France, Prince Edward Island and Cape Cod. N.H. Sea Grant marine aquaculture specialist Michael Chambers arranged for the presentation to provide new equipment options that might help oyster farmers improve their operations. 

There are currently seven individuals and partners that have permits for oyster farms in Great Bay, although some are in the early stages of setup. Those that have been established for a few years typically use “oyster condos” to grow the shellfish, made out of heavyweight mesh bags that slide horizontally into a PVC tower that remains underwater. However, a lot of biofouling — a term used to describe a build-up of barnacles, algae and other aquatic organisms on hard structures under the water — grows on the equipment, requiring the oyster farmers to power spray the equipment regularly. In addition to the increased labor costs, it can be a physically demanding part of the job because the biofouling adds a lot of weight to the equipment. 

Above: Ray Grizzle, professor of zoology at UNH, scrubs a bag full of young oysters with a sturdy brush to remove biofouling. These bags are part of the oyster condo setup typically used in Great Bay oyster farms. 

The SEAPA company, based out of Adelaide in South Australia, partnered with Garon Plastic to design oyster baskets made of sturdy injection molded plastic mesh. The baskets have clips that allow them to hang from line anchored to wooden posts in the intertidal zone of a bay. The lines can be pulled up and attached at various heights on the posts, allowing the oysters to be out of the water for part of the day. This reduces biofouling, slows down the oyster shell growth and enables the oyster meat to grow bigger. 

In many areas of the world, including Prince Edward Island, these lines and posts do not interfere with most people’s ability to enjoy the beauty of the water. But in Great Bay, oyster farmers face the challenge of balancing the need to farm effectively with the desire of the waterfront homeowners to have an unobstructed view of the water. 

Unlike New England, the areas outside of the metropolitan regions of South Australia are sparsely populated. The residents accept views of the oyster farms as a reminder that there are jobs available that help grow clean, healthy oysters to supply market demand, the team explained. That said, the SEAPA containers are versatile and could be stacked in a similar manner as the current oyster condos used in Great Bay or set up in a different manner altogether to meet everyone’s needs. 

Above: Great Bay oyster farmers Chris Phillips, Jon Bunker and Jess Cranney took a closer look at the SEAPA baskets to determine if that gear might work for their operations. 

Below: Garry Thompson demonstrates how the liner sock goes into the baskets to keep the tiny oysters from escaping. 

For more information on SEAPA, please visit