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their season was shifted to the fall so it would not interfere with sea lion feeding. In the fall, however, the cod are dispersed, resulting in longer tows and increased bycatch of halibut.

Although the overall halibut mortality limit for the Gulf of Alaska has not been exceeded in recent years, high halibut bycatch rates in the cod fishery have resulted in premature closures for the fall trawl fishery resulting in less fish across the dock for cod, sole and flounder. That's when the Kodiak-based Alaska Dragger's Association asked MCAF to help determine if excluder devices developed for the flatfish fisheries in the Bering Sea would work in the Gulf.

Gauvin enlisted the assistance of Dr. Craig Rose of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center who has used underwater video to study fish behavior in trawls. Based on his observations, Dr. Rose suggested that halibut might be able to escape through slots placed in the side of the trawl while market sized cod would still be retained.

A preliminary design used slot panels made from fiberglass rods, but fishermen thought these rods were too rigid to be wound on a net reel. Instead, they suggested using electrical cable known as "third wire" that is flexible enough to be wound around the net roller but would remain rigid under the tension of being towed.

John McCarthy, captain of the Kodiak trawler Pacific Star, and Mirek Lenda, a Kodiak net manufacturer came up with a way to utilize the scrap wire by lashing it into sturdy slotted panels. This achieved the concept originally conceived by Dr. Rose while being practical for everyday fishing conditions.

Using an exempted fishery permit intended for such experimental work, both designs were tested in the fall of 2006. The testing compared catch rates from two vessels doing "paired" towing: one boat using the excluder and the other without to act as a control. A total of 14 pairs of tows were made, but worsening fall weather
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Contact: John Gauvin
gauvin@seanet.com
206-660-0359
Marine Conservation Alliance
7-May-2007


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