By Richard Gaines
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced an effort to expand cooperative fishing research in New England, including — possibly in the near future — the use of a commercial trawler working in tandem with the new government research vessel Bigelow to help determine if the trawl catch jibes with the industry's.
Alan Risenhoover, NOAA's acting assistant administrator for fisheries, described various initiatives for cross-checking and improving stock assessments during a national teleconference to announce the interim or transitional total allowable catch of Gulf of Maine cod for the 2012 fishing cycle beginning May 1.
"We are designing experiments for commercial trawlers and it may involve parallel towing," he said.
Industry has been suspicious of government trawl surveys since "Trawlgate," the discovery early in the previous decade that the trawling by the Albatross was being done with poor technique and misuse of the technology, leading to excessively dire findings.
Risenhoover said that, in addition to cooperative research experiments to improve assessments, the government will attempt to decide whether cod is two distinct stocks, Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, or one super stock whose population moves between the two.