Cooperative Research in the Northeast
Our Cooperative Research Branch engages the fishing community to answer science questions and improve management of the region’s fisheries.
Cooperative research is the partnership between the fishing industry and the science community. We work together to improve our understanding of ocean ecosystems and support sustainable fisheries management. This partnership:
- Produces tools to collect and share data that advance science and fishing
- Applies and interprets data to address research questions
- Facilitates communication and collaboration among Northeast fisheries professionals
Bottom Longline Survey
The Gulf of Maine Cooperative Bottom Longline Survey started in 2014 to collect data on species that prefer rocky habitats. We conduct this survey every spring and fall aboard two chartered commercial fishing vessels. Scientists incorporate data from this survey into stock assessments and use it to answer questions about species distribution shifts and ecosystem dynamics.
In 2019, to improve efficiency and data quality, we replaced paper logs with a tablet-based application that communicates with digital scales, electronic fish measuring boards, and barcode scanners. We equipped each vessel with electronic monitoring cameras to get detailed information on bait condition and hook status. Researchers will use this information to assess how hook-specific catch differs among seafloor types, depth, and time of day.
- F/V Tenacious II
- F/V Mary Elizabeth
- Species abundance and biomass
- Biosamples for age and reproductive analysis
- Habitat classification (video) of survey stations
- Temperature and depth at survey stations
- Current measurements at survey stations
Contact: Dave McElroy
The Study Fleet originated in 2006 to engage fishermen in collecting high-resolution data to address science and management needs. This partnership demonstrates the utility of fishery-dependent data. The Study Fleet comprises approximately 50 fishing vessels whose captains and crews collect detailed data on fishing effort, catch, and environmental conditions.
Researchers use Study Fleet data for many purposes, including:
- Estimating fishery footprints
- Developing catch-per-unit-effort indices for stock assessments
- Understanding the potential impact of offshore wind energy development on fishing operations
- Developing thermal niche models
- Informing regional oceanographic models
This program involves approximately 50 fishing vessels from Maine to North Carolina.
Our partners collect haul-level fishing effort, catch, and temperature and depth data.
Contact: Katie Burchard
GOFISH Data Dashboard
The Graphical Offshore Fishing Information System Homepage (GOFISH) allows Study Fleet participants to access, explore, and apply the data collected over the years using the FLDRS electronic logbook software. GOFISH runs on Study Fleet computers to produce automated analyses and visualizations of catch, bycatch, and environmental conditions for individual Study Fleet participants.
Captains participating in the Study Fleet use GOFISH to:
- Explore their catch and effort data over space and time
- Compare their fishing patterns to oceanographic conditions
- Plot catch and bycatch rates
- Refine their fishing practices accordingly
Contact: Jeff Pessutti
Cooperative Environmental Monitoring
The Environmental Monitors on Lobster Traps and Large Trawlers (eMOLT) program outfits fishing vessels with oceanographic sensors to collect bottom-water temperature data across the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf. This program also sets up data transmission routines to enable near-real time data sharing. These data feed into numerical oceanographic models and into data visualization and access platforms, such as the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regional Associations of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems. This process is similar to the National Weather Service’s use of air temperature observations on land in their forecast models.
Contact: George Maynard
Industry-Based Biological Sampling
Our branch works with industry partners across the region to collect fish and invertebrate samples for age, growth, reproduction, and bioenergetics studies. Biosample collection focuses on times of year and areas without surveys or other means to obtain fish samples.
For example, we have collected herring samples to evaluate skipped spawning events, and haddock samples to study reproductive dynamics in the Gulf of Maine, where extreme fluctuations occur. We have recently targeted data-poor species such as cusk and wolffish. The program also collects samples and data to better understand how conversion factors (processed to whole weight) vary over space, time, sex, and maturity for species not landed whole.
Contact: Katie Burchard
Collaborative Squid Research
We have developed a research portfolio that focuses on applying fishing industry knowledge and data to advance our understanding of two commercially important squid species: the northern shortfin squid (Illex illecebrosus) and the longfin squid (Doryteuthis pealeii). We work with harvesters, processors, and scientists to identify patterns and potential environmental drivers of catch rates, distributions, and availability of each species. Our research has contributed to the northern shortfin squid stock assessment as well as the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s specification setting process.. Our goal is to establish innovative collaborative research efforts between industry and scientists to improve the uptake of ecosystem information into management.
Shortfin Squid Electronic Size Monitoring (ILXSM)
We require high frequency, region-wide size and weight sampling of shortfin squid to gain a better understanding of the cohort and population structure of this valuable, dynamic species. Our researchers and industry partners worked together to develop an efficient electronic system to collect standardized shortfin squid size and weight data. In the summer of 2021, we installed electronic data collection systems at processing facilities across the region. When fishing vessels land at a facility, the data collection system records paired mantle length and whole weight of each individual squid. These data help scientists better understand the size composition of shortfin squid cohorts and population while the fishery is open, which is key in advancing the assessment and management of this dynamic species.
Contact: Thomas Swiader
Longfin Squid Biological Sampling Program (SQUIBS)
The longfin squid biological sampling program (SQUIBS) collects longfin squid (Doryteuthis pealeii) from commercial fishing vessels every week to assess the growth and reproductive dynamics of this species. Technicians at Northeast Fisheries Science Center's Narragansett Laboratory measure biological characteristics of each squid collected, including mantle length, mantle width, body weight, reproductive organ sizes, and egg presence, using an electronic data collection system. This biological sampling effort will provide a comprehensive data stream of lengths, weights, age and maturity estimates throughout the year. These data will advance understanding of longfin squid life history, will be used in a new length-based assessment model for longfin squid, and will contribute to the 2026 longfin squid research track stock assessment.
Contact: Anna Mercer
Oceanographic Drivers of Squid (Squid-Squad)
Climate-driven variations in oceanic conditions can impact population dynamics of commercially important species, including the northern shortfin squid. This is a highly dynamic species. Its movement onto the continental shelf is largely influenced by oceanography, yet much remains unknown about its life history strategies. Our collaborative interdisciplinary research team of oceanographers, fisheries biologists, statisticians, and industry partners have established a multi-year field sampling research effort designed to collect coincident oceanographic and biological data on a commercial squid fishing vessel. This project builds upon ongoing Illex research efforts to expand and test novel data collection methods as well as advance our current understanding of oceanographic drivers of the northern shortfin squid.
Contact: Kim Hyde
- Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council
- Illex Research Track Stock Assessment Working Group
- University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science & Technology
- Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
- Open Ocean Research
- University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
- Virginia Institute of Marine Science
- Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation
- Squid fishing fleets and processors across the northeast region
Evaluating Impacts of Offshore Wind Energy Development
To understand the potential conflict between fisheries operations and the development of offshore wind farms, we work with the UMass School for Marine Science and Technology using fine-scale fishing data from a variety of sources. These sources, which include our Study Fleet and Northeast Fisheries Observer Program, help us explore how the scale of fishery-dependent data (e.g. haul-by-haul versus trip-level) affects our understanding of the fishing operation footprint.
We also collaborate with industry partners to review data sources, analytical approaches, and results, and to predict socioeconomic implications of offshore wind energy for fishery operations and management.
Contact: Anna Mercer
Pilot Hook-and-Line Survey
Areas developed for offshore wind farms will be difficult or impossible to access using traditional surveys that towed gear such as trawls. To address this challenge, we are piloting a hook-and-line survey technique that can be safely deployed in any habitat type and in close proximity to offshore wind turbines. The pilot survey is scheduled to begin in spring 2024 and to be conducted in collaboration with the recreational and commercial fishing community. Our initial goals for the pilot survey are to:
- Develop hook and line survey operations and methods
- Analyze data to evaluate gear performance and sampling selectivity
- Explore computer models for development of an abundance index
Ultimately, the data produced by a hook-and-line survey will help ensure that as offshore wind energy development progresses, we continue to collect data on fisheries resource populations and habitats.
Northeast Cooperative Research Summits
The Northeast Cooperative Research Summit is an annual event that brings together scientists, managers, and members of the fishing industry to share the approaches and results of ongoing cooperative research projects, discuss opportunities for expanded industry participation, and develop best practices for applying cooperative research results to assessments and management.
The Northeast Cooperative Research Summit helps to coordinate regional cooperative research, form new partnerships, and develop priorities for near-term science and management challenges that can be addressed by cooperative research.
The Summit features presentations of new research, breakout sessions featuring panels of fishermen and scientists discussing regional topics of importance, and informal networking time. We prioritize the active participation of industry members at the Northeast Cooperative Research Summits.
We hosted the inaugural Northeast Cooperative Research Summits in Newport News, Virginia and Providence, Rhode Island in 2023. The 2024 Northeast Cooperative Research Summit will take place in New Jersey, and we will rotate future locations throughout the northeast region.
Contact: Anna Mercer
Branch Chief: Anna Mercer
Cooperative Research Branch
28 Tarzwell Dr
Narragansett, RI 02882