New Nets Show Progress

None | Dec 31, 2017

For years, Research Scientist Dr. Steve Eayrs has worked to design and build fishing gear that helps fishermen and benefits the environment.

Three fishermen in orange stand on the back of a trawling boat, while a green net stretches out behind the boat towards the camera. Gulls flock in the foreground, waiting for food.

Together with teams of colleagues from both academia and the fishing industry, he has designed new nets that reduce fuel consumption and improve selectivity. In 2017, much of Dr. Eayrs’s work focused on an Ultra-Low Opening Trawl (ULOT). This unique design features a smaller vertical opening than a typical trawl net — just over 2 feet compared to the 6-foot opening in standard nets.

This design allows for cod to swim up and over the net, escaping capture. After centuries of targeting Gulf of Maine cod, groundfish fishermen are now looking for ways to avoid catching it. For many fishermen, drastically reduced catch quotas for Gulf of Maine cod are making it difficult to target other species that are more abundant.

In tests on the water, the ULOT reduced cod catch by 45% while having no significant impact on catch of other species such as yellowtail flounder, dabs, grey sole, skate, monkfish, and whiting. In addition to these impressive results, the ULOT also boasted a nearly 7% reduction in fuel consumption.

Trawling is one of the most common fishing methods here in the Gulf of Maine. But how many people have seen these fishing vessels in action? In this video, Steve Eayrs will show you what trawling looks like in our local waters. He’ll also explain some common misconceptions about trawling and discuss a bit of the research he’s engaged in.

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The project team included fishermen Jim Ford, Tom Testaverde, Carl Bouchard, and Dan Murphy; scientists Mike Pol, Steve Eayrs, Chris Glass, and Pingguo He; and net builder Jon Knight of Superior Trawl.

In addition to these exciting results, Dr. Eayrs is committed to helping others understand what trawling looks like in the Gulf of Maine. While many of us enjoy fresh local seafood, we don’t often get to see how that fish is harvested. In the video above, Dr. Eayrs describes his focus on reducing environmental impacts of trawling, while also helping fishermen continue to earn a living on the water within the confines of a heavily regulated industry.

Many myths and misconceptions surround trawling, despite its long cultural and economic history in our region. In an effort to dispel some of these myths, Dr. Eayrs presented “The Truth About Trawling: Are Bottom Trawls the Bulldozers of the Sea” as part of our Fall Sea State Lecture Series.

Part of the GMRI Sea State Lecture Series Debunking Ocean Myths - August 10th, 2017

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