Marine Fisheries Research

publicforum

Commercial fishermen speak at a PCCS public forum

The Marine Fisheries Research program (PCCSMFR) is underway at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies. The goals of this new program are to foster collaboration and understanding between fishermen and scientists and conduct cooperative research and education with a focus on scientific and policy issues confronting Provincetown and outer Cape fishermen and aquaculturists.

The new program is directed by Owen Nichols, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Massachusetts School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST). Owen grew up on the Cape, and began to take an active interest in fisheries science and management during his years in the PCCS right whale research program. He tells the story behind his desire to start this new program:

Owen Nichols, Director

Owen Nichols, Director

“When I started working on our right whale research project, I was sitting in a coffee shop one day poring over a plot of right whale sightings in C

ape Cod Bay. One of our local lobstermen leaned over my shoulder and jabbed his finger right into the middle of the plot, and said, ‘I fish right there, what are all those dots?’. Thus began the first of many conversations during which we both learned a lot. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time out on the docks and gotten to know many of our local fishermen. We’ve always maintained an open, frank dialogue about fisheries management, science, and conservation issues. Many of them have expressed an interest in working with scientists on cooperative research projects, in particular with a local organization. The nature of cooperative fisheries research requires close coordination and staff that can be nearby and flexible, ready to go when the seas lay down or the fishing is good.”

There are many aspects of fisheries biology, ecology, and oceanography that are poorly understood and yet crucial to an accurate understanding of how fishing and other human activities affect the marine ecosystem and how best to manage fishing activity. The manner in which natural and anthropogenic variations in fisheries landings relate to one another and to biotic and abiotic factors is difficult to interpret without adequate data. Working together, fishermen can combine their skills and knowledge with the tools and techniques employed by scientists to conduct field research aimed at filling gaps in our knowledge and providing managers with sound science on which to base management decisions.

Outreach is being conducted among Provincetown and outer Cape fishermen and aquaculturists to define key issues and build the foundation for cooperative research partnerships. This effort is supported by the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank Charitable Foundation. A few collaborative research projects are already underway:

Research Projects:

Environmental Effects on Spatiotemporal Distribution of Squid

Nantucket Sound weir sites

Nantucket Sound weir sites

Working with commercial weir fishermen in Chatham, Nichols is studying the effects of environmental variables on the distribution of longfin inshore squid (Loligo pealeii). Understanding the responses of squid to temperature, salinity, wind, and other factors has profound implications for the interpretation of abundance surveys and landings data, on which managers base decisions, as well as an understanding of the potential effects of climate change. This project is part of Nichols’ doctoral research at SMAST and is supported by the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute and grants from the Norcross Wildlife Foundation/A.V. Stout Fund and the Sounds Conservancy/Quebec-Labrador Foundation.

Site Selection for Subtidal Shellfish Aquaculture Areas

This project will provide technical support to the Cape Cod towns of Truro and Provincetown in order to identify subtidal areas suitable for future aquaculture development. Data is being gathered on water quality, habitat type and existing uses and combined with sustainable aquaculture site selection criteria and the biological requirements of the species to be grown in order to map areas in the waters of each town that may be designated as Aquaculture Development Areas, or ADAs, large enough to contain multiple grow-out sites for use by individual farmers. This effort is supported by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program.

Seal Interactions with Cape Cod Commercial and Recreational Fisheries

As local seal abundance increases, so does reporting of fishing gear depredation by seals and concern about the larger-scale ecological interaction (competition) between seals and commercial and recreational fisheries. The perception of fishermen that significant ecological interaction occurs comes largely from observations of depredation, during which seals directly remove target species from fishing gear. Depredation by seals is observed or reported in most Cape Cod fixed-gear fisheries. However, it is difficult to quantify the extent of these interactions and to determine if they represent significant competition on a scale greater than that of the area or gear fished. In collaboration with the commercial fishing industry and the PCCS seal research program, we are studying seal depredation of catch retained in fixed fishing gear and individual residence and movement patterns of seals in order to better understand the ecological role of seals in Cape Cod waters. These observations are placed in a broader ecological context incorporating hypotheses regarding diet, foraging behavior and movement. PCCS is organizing a working group of fishermen and scientists to develop collaborative research proposals to test such hypotheses, funded by the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank Charitable Foundation.

Embryonic Development of Squid

IMG_0750lrAn offshoot of this project, PCCSMFR’s inaugural project began in direct response to concerns of Nantucket Sound fishermen that squid eggs could be vulnerable to fishing gear before they hatch. Nichols is working with commercial fishermen and the PCCS habitat studies lab to investigate the time of hatching and the association with environmental factors such as water temperature. Once the timing of hatching and associated conditions are determined, these data can be used to inform fishermen and managers and aid them in their decision-making process with respect to the manner in which fishing gear is deployed in spawning habitat.

Education Programs:

PCCSMFR education programs provide fishermen with a platform from which to share their knowledge and heritage as authentic and engaging educators.

Abstracts From PCCSMFR Research Projects:

Nichols, O. C. and E. Eldredge. 2010. Babysitting baby squid: In situ monitoring of longfin inshore squid embryonic development in Nantucket Sound. 15th Annual Cape Cod Natural History Conference, Barnstable, Massachusetts, April 3, 2010.

Embryonic development within longfin inshore squid (Loligo pealeii) egg masses was monitored in situ at a commercial fish weir in northeastern Nantucket Sound (Massachusetts, USA) in June-July 2009. Two freshly discovered egg masses were collected and placed in a mesh enclosure on the bottom immediately adjacent to the weir for sampling. Seawater temperature was recorded using a data logger affixed to the weir. Minimum development times for embryos within the two egg masses were 22 (collected on 02 June) and ca. 15-17 days (collected on 30 June). Daily mean seawater temperature increased from a minimum of 15.6° C on 01 June to a maximum of 21.6° C on 14 July. Mean temperature during development of the embryos in the first and second collections were 16.6° and 19.6° C respectively. Embryos developed 1.5 times faster at warmer temperatures, consistent with laboratory studies and in situ observations of the embryonic development of other loliginid squids. Known temperature-development time relationships may be a useful predictor of hatch timing of eggs discovered in the field, which in turn could be used as a management tool by local fishermen wishing to minimize potential impact on squid eggs on the bottom.

Nichols, O. C., K. Ampela, E. Eldredge, and L. Sette. 2009. Perspectives on seal interactions with Cape Cod commercial fisheries: Localized depredation or large-scale competition? Gulf of Maine Seals: Populations, Problems, and Priorities, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, May 28-29, 2009.

As local seal abundance increases, so does reporting of fishing gear depredation by seals and concern about the larger-scale ecological interaction (competition) between seals and commercial fisheries. The perception of fishermen that significant ecological interaction occurs comes largely from observations of depredation, during which seals directly remove target species from fishing gear. Depredation by seals was observed or reported in most Cape Cod fixed-gear fisheries. However, it is difficult to quantify the extent of these interactions and to determine if they represent significant competition on a scale greater than that of the area or gear fished. In collaboration with the commercial fishing industry, we are studying seal depredation in fixed fishing gear, seal diet, and individual residence and movement patterns in order to better understand the ecological role of seals in Cape Cod waters. Here we present estimates of seal depredation in the Nantucket Sound weir fishery and a comparison with diet studies in the same area. Differences were observed in the species composition of seal prey represented by hard parts in scat and stomach contents, observed during depredation in fish weirs, and reported in other fisheries. These observations are placed in a broader ecological context incorporating hypotheses regarding foraging behavior and movement. Participation of the fishing industry in collaborative research provides a means to fill critical data gaps and research needs.

Related Publications:

Bogomolni, A., G. Early, K. Matassa, O. Nichols, and L. Sette. 2010. Gulf of Maine seals- populations, problems and priorities. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Technical Report 2010-06.

Feeney, R. G., and K. J. La Valley. 2009. A decade of discovery: collaborative research in the Gulf of Maine. Northeast Consortium, Durham, NH. (PCCSMFR highlighted on page 42).

For more information on this program and PCCSMFR research projects email the director, Owen Nichols at nichols@coastalstudies.org.