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Cooperative science program yields results

cut the experiment short.

The initial results were positive but not as good as hoped for so Gauvin, Rose and Kodiak fishermen went back to the drawing board. Video from the fall indicated water flow through the excluder was too fast for some halibut to escape. So a "gauntlet" was designed from floats used to slow the water and create an area within the net where the fish can mill around while trying to escape.

Testing of the modified excluder resumed this April on Portlock Bank northeast of Kodiak. Under more favorable conditions, the test boats have already completed most of the 45 paired tows needed for the experimental design. Based on a preliminary look at the data, the excluder shows a consistent reduction in halibut bycatch of about 50 percent with higher halibut escapement on tows with large cod catches. Underwater video shows halibut and cod utilizing the modified portion of the excluder in the manner researchers expected.

"That's a significant reduction in the halibut bycatch which shows the design has a lot of promise," Gauvin said. "Despite the 20-30 percent reduction in the catch of cod, these appear to be mostly the undersized cod, although some larger cod are managing to find their way out of the excluder. With additional work on the excluder, we think that we may be able to reduce the loss of the larger cod."

Gauvin noted more work is needed to test and fine tune the design before it can be widely adopted by the fleet. He thanked Dr. Rose for his assistance with the gear design and testing, and especially for the loaned underwater video equipment and technical assistance so fish behavior could be observed during the test. "Video is the key to learning how to improve the excluder design in the future," Gauvin said.

The researchers also want to thank the captains and crews of the Kodiak-based fishing vessels Topaz, New Life, Caravelle and Pacific Star for their hard work and for their willingn
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Contact: John Gauvin
gauvin@seanet.com
206-660-0359
Marine Conservation Alliance
7-May-2007


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