Fleet Communication System Aims to Reduce Butterfish Bycatch

Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program has received funding from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for initiating a fleet communication system as a method to abate butterfish and river herring/shad bycatch. Butterfish and longfin squid exhibit similar migratory patterns and habitat preferences from season to season. As a result, the directed longfin squid fishery commonly observes considerable numbers of butterfish as bycatch. With butterfish bycatch cap limitations in effect, the longfin squid fishery is threatened by early closures and cancellations. 

The longfin squid squid fishery is of vital importance to the economic health of many commercial fishing communities, particularly in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern New England areas.  The fleet communication system will collect and report real-time observations of these bycatch species and identify “hot spots” from vessels engaged in the longfin squid bottom trawl fishery. This will enable the fleet to avoid the “hot spot” locations in order to reduce fleet-wide capture of butterfish and river herring.

“Hot spot” information will be transmitted through VMS and Boatracs. Vessels should send one email per 24 hours to CCE at hotspot@cornell.edu.  This program can lead to appreciable bycatch monitoring and reduction, and increased fishing opportunities for the squid fleet that might otherwise be restricted once the bycatch of butterfish and river herring cause unwanted fishery closures. For more information about the program and to find out how to participate, visit the Squid Trawl Network website.

CONTACT: Tara Froehlich, (631) 727-7850 x 317.

UMASS Dartmouth