Approval of Selective Gear for Small-mesh Fisheries: The Large-mesh Belly Panel

March 05, 2020

We approved a new selective trawl gear, the large-mesh belly panel, for use in small-mesh fisheries when the fisheries accountability measure for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder is triggered.  Use of the large-mesh belly panel reduces bycatch of groundfish species of concern, such as yellowtail flounder. 

Large mesh belly panel mesh.jpeg

Mesh used to construct the large-mesh belly panel (Photo Credit: Cornell University).

What is the large-mesh belly panel?

A large-mesh belly panel trawl is defined as a four-seam bottom trawl net (i.e., a net with a top and bottom panel and two side panels) modified to include a large-mesh panel to replace the first bottom belly. The large-mesh belly panel must have a minimum mesh size of 30 inches (76.2 cm). The width of the panel must extend the full width of the bottom panel (i.e., from one bottom gore to the other bottom gore).  The depth must be at least 90 inches (228.6 cm) and at least 3 meshes deep (2 meshes deep with a 15-inch (38.1-cm) sewing seam on top and bottom). No more than six meshes of the small-mesh net may be left behind the sweep, before the large-mesh panel is sewn in. 

When and why would I be required to use this gear?

This action approves the use of the gear in the event that the fisheries accountability measure for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder is triggered. At this time, the accountability measure has not been triggered, and the use of this gear is not required but is permitted during normal fishing operations.  

The small-mesh trawl fishery (e.g., whiting and squid) has a sub-annual catch limit (ACL) and accountability measure for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder. If catch exceeds the sub-ACL, the accountability measure requires small-mesh trawl vessels to use selective trawl gear that reduces flatfish catch in the Georges Bank yellowtail stock area, in a subsequent fishing year.  The selective trawl gears approved for use under this accountability measure are: Haddock separator trawl; Ruhle trawl; rope separator trawl; and now the large-mesh belly panel. The use of selective gear is required to reduce catch of certain species of concern.  NMFS will inform members of the fishing industry, subject to an accountability measure, before that accountability measure is put in place. 

Are there any reporting requirements?

If you are using the large-mesh belly panel trawl gear you should use the gear code “OBP” on your Vessel Trip Report (VTR). 

What is the Technology Transfer Program?

Cornell University is currently providing vouchers to small-mesh fishermen for a FREE large-mesh belly panel.This program is sponsored by NOAA’s Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program (BREP).The large-mesh belly panel can be retrofitted to your net by cooperating gear suppliers: Reidar’s Manufacturing Inc., and; Superior Trawl Inc.

To receive your large-mesh belly panel gear voucher or for more information please contact:

Cornell Cooperative Extension Fishery Specialist Tara McClintock at (631) 853-6157 or (631) 740-6486.

Last updated by Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office on March 05, 2020