Industry Surveys

The primary objective of GEAC's research surveys is to provide annual/seasonal indices of catch rate, distribution and abundance for various groundfish species. While designed to meet various objectives related to specific stock assessments, it is intended that information gathered from these surveys would also contribute towards systems that may be established pursuant to DFO's objective-based management approach. The designs of the survey vary. For example, the redfish survey in Unit 1 is based on a regular grid so as to provide an index of relative abundance and an index of fish distribution, while the redfish survey in Unit 2 is a stratified random survey from which absolute biomass estimates may be generated.

Generally GEAC provides the vessel, crew, fishing gear, operating expenses and funds the third party technical support necessary to conduct the surveys, and for any analyses that is conducted by personnel external to DFO. DFO is responsible to provide technical guidance with respect to the design and operation of the survey, to incorporate where possible the results of the survey into the DFO stock assessment, and to provide an annual report on the findings and interpretation of the survey results.

Other Research Activities

From time to time as will be described in the annual workplan, GEAC's member companies will fund and/or conduct various activities in support of science objectives. Examples include port sampling of offshore catches, partial funding of DFO research projects, funding the Chair in Fisheries Conservation and the Chair in Fisheries Oceanography at Memorial University, etc.

Specific Research Activities Funded by GEAC's Members

GEAC's Members annual expenditures on research activities approximate $ 700-800,000 and include the following projects (see following map for location of stock area):

1. 3Ps Stratified Random Groundfish Survey
2. Unit 2 Redfish Stratified Random Survey
3. Unit 1 Redfish Grid Survey
4. 4VsW Spring Groundfish Survey
5. 4VWX, 5Z Pollock Hydroacoustic and Index Fishing/Mapping Program
6. 0+1/2J3K Hydroacoustic Monitoring of Northern Groundfish Resources (pending)
7. Port Sampling Program for the Offshore Groundfish Fishery
8. 4TVn Cod Mixing Study
9. 3LNO Yellowtail Grid Survey (FPI)


3Ps Stratified Random Groundfish Survey (Cod, Witch, American Plaice)

To enhance the groundfish research database in NAFO Division 3Ps, GEAC funded surveys during the Fall (November-December) of 1997,1998, 1999, and 2000. The continuing intent is to implement a series of annual Fall surveys by a designated vessel (M.V. Pennysmart) employed for up to approximately two weeks duration in 3Ps to complement resource assessment activities carried out by DFO.

GEAC funds and performs the surveys with scientific guidance from DFO in the design and execution of a stratified random survey and associated sampling. Technical personnel are engaged on board the vessel by an independent enterprise for data collection purposes. The data collected during these surveys are subsequently analyzed by an independent scientific resource, for the expressed intent of providing a complete package of information to DFO, for their databases and their assessment work.

Set details and length frequencies are logged in the DFO FFS system and otoliths are collected and aged. Catch statistics, length and age distribution, and stratified analysis estimates of cod, witch, and American Plaice abundance and biomass, including age distribution estimates are presented to DFO for incorporation into the stock assessment process.

Click species for a given year to access a copy of the scientific report for the survey conducted in that year (PDF format):

2000: Cod, American Plaice, Witch

1999: Cod, American Plaice, Witch

1998: Cod, American Plaice and Witch

1997: Cod


Unit 2 Redfish Stratified Random Survey

To enhance the fisheries research database on redfish stocks, GEAC has funded dedicated redfish surveys on the Unit 2 Redfish stock in the Fall of 1997 and in August of each year since then. The continuing intent is to implement a series of annual August surveys by a designated vessel (M.V. Cape Beaver) employed for up to approximately two weeks duration in the stock unit area to complement resource assessment activities carried out by DFO.

GEAC funds and performs the surveys with scientific guidance from DFO in the design and execution of a stratified random survey and associated sampling. Technical personnel are engaged on board the vessel by an independent enterprise for data collection purposes. The data collected during these surveys including set details and length frequencies are logged in the DFO FFS system and otoliths are collected and aged. In 1997, 1998, and 1999, the data files were forwarded to the DFO redfish scientist in the Newfoundland Region for DFO's databases and assessment work. Since 2000, and at the request of DFO, the data collected during these surveys were analyzed by an independent scientific resource, and a completed package of information was provided to DFO, for their databases and for incorporation into the stock assessment process.

Click species for a given year to access a copy of the scientific report for the survey conducted in that year (PDF format):

2000: Redfish


Unit 1 Redfish Grid Survey

To enhance the fisheries research database on redfish stocks, GEAC funded dedicated grid surveys on the Unit 1 Redfish stock in June and October-November 1998, and June of each year since then. The continuing intent is to employ a series of annual June surveys by a designated vessel (M.V. Richmond Odyssey) employed for up to approximately two weeks duration in the stock unit area to complement resource assessment activities carried out by DFO.

The stated objectives of this annual survey are:

1. To describe the stock and its seasonal distribution.
2. To collect biological and oceanographic data in support of a multi-disciplinary research program on redfish.
3. To enhance the exchange of information on redfish biology between traditional redfish enterprises and scientists.
4. To monitor recruitment of redfish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

GEAC funds and performs the surveys with scientific guidance from DFO in its design and execution. Ninety 20 x 20 minute grids have been identified, with one towing station pre-selected for each grid. 68 stations are spread throughout 4RST, and 20 in 4VN and 3Pn. These stations will remain the same for future surveys. A bottom trawl (Engel 145) with a minimum mesh of 88mm in the codend is doubled with a liner of 40 mm. Tows are of 30 minutes duration (from the time the winches have stopped) at a speed of 3.5 knots, and are conducted on a 24 hour basis. A DFO-provided temperature sensor is attached to the trawl and the thermograph returned to DFO after the trip.

Technical personnel are engaged on board the vessel by an independent enterprise for data collection purposes. For each set the entire catch is recorded by species and weighed. If a large quantity of redfish <15 cm is encountered, they are sorted from the larger one and a sub-sample selected. A minimum of 250 fish from each set is measured to the nearest centimeter. Otoliths are collected for aging by DFO. The detailed information collected during the survey is keypunched by the independent enterprise into an electronic archived format provided by DFO, and is forwarded to DFO for their databases and to incorporate into the stock assessment process.


20 min. squares and positions of the stations during the June GEAC surveys

 

Click species for a given year to access a copy of the scientific report for the survey (PDF format):

2001: Redfish


4VsW Spring Groundfish Survey

With the exception of 1985, DFO has conducted an annual Spring survey of groundfish resources of the Eastern Scotian Shelf since 1979. This survey has provided an index of stock abundance in numerous assessments as well as providing valuable information on the seasonal distribution, biology, and environmental responses of the fish stocks. In 1998, DFO concluded that this survey would not continue as a result of the reduced Science Branch budget.

Since 1998, in order to facilitate continuation of this DFO survey, GEAC provided and funded two experienced crew for the 16 day Spring survey conducted by the DFO vessel Alfred Needler, as a means to maintain the time series of the March groundfish survey.


4VWX, 5Z Pollock Hydroacoustic and Index Fishing / Mapping Program

Pollock is a difficult species to assess due to their schooling and semi-pelagic habits. It has been acknowledged that the conventional groundfish survey techniques heretofore employed by DFO are not effective for this species. In 1999 and 2000, the DFO vessel Teleost conducted a survey primarily in areas of 4X, utilizing hydroacoustic survey techniques in tandem with periodic comparative trawling by a designated GEAC member vessel to confirm species composition and size/age structure. A designated GEAC member vessel has been fitted with a portable acoustic system and data logger for the purpose of extending the spatial coverage of DFO's hydroacoustic survey, as well as to conduct on-going mapping initiatives in conjunction with commercial fishing operations. DFO provides general direction and advice with respect to the design of the information collection activities, and will eventually incorporate this information into the stock assessment process.


0+1/2J3K Hydroacoustic Monitoring of Northern Groundfish Resources

DFO Science Branch is evaluating ways of augmenting scientific information generated by annual research surveys. Particularly with recent technological advances, the use of hydroacoustic survey techniques has received increasing attention as being a viable and cost-effective research methodology for selected species located in both coastal and shelf waters.

While the collapse of groundfish stocks in northern areas of the Canadian Atlantic Continental Shelf has dramatically reduced the opportunity for and presence of offshore commercial fishing activity in these areas, GEAC members continue to have a limited presence in these waters throughout most of the year. Several modern shrimp trawlers are equipped with 'sounders' that have the potential to monitor the presence of groundfish in their respective area of operations. Whether this existing equipment is utilized or whether portable acoustic systems are employed, GEAC has agreed in principle with the placement of data loggers on selected Northern Shrimp vessels for the purpose of obtaining hard data on the presence of groundfish encountered during their shrimp fishing operations. DFO is to provide further clarification of its interests and requirements regarding the design and implementation of the data gathering process, for eventual incorporation into the stock assessment process.


Port Sampling Program for the Offshore Groundfish Fishery

DFO employs various monitoring programs to gather timely scientific information with respect to the commercial fisheries. The at-sea observer program and port sampling activities are principal means to derive age specific fishing mortality and to define other biological characteristics of the exploited population.

In light of Departmental downsizing, the emergence of new fisheries, and the re-emergence of traditional fisheries, scientists responsible for port sampling activities have expressed the need to supplement port sampling coverages that their budgets are able to support. GEAC has expressed a preparedness to confirm and formalize port sampling activity that is currently performed by member companies, and to expand these arrangements to other ports, effectively providing a comprehensive coverage of all groundfish stocks fished by the offshore fleet.

At least two individuals have been or will be selected as port samplers at designated sites. DFO is responsible for training of these individuals through a combination of class and lab sessions, as well as on-the-job training through an apprenticeship component.

The design of an appropriate sampling program is essential in order to gain the required information. Different locations fished at different times of the year using different gear may yield different size and age compositions. Thus, sampling activity must be taken from all the different area/time/gear combinations to ensure that sampling is representative of the catch (population). Once the various components are defined, the number of samples and sample size, including sub-samples of aging materials from each unit can be determined. This varies among species but usually a minimum of 2 samples consisting of about 400 randomly selected fish per sampling unit are required.

The selected industry samplers monitor vessel landings for the purpose of identifying units to be sampled. Where two samples have not yet been obtained for a particular unit (eg. Cod in 3Ps during the third quarter) and fish from this unit is on board, then a sample will be taken. DFO personnel will be kept informed of landing times and catch composition which will allow them to visit the site for the purpose of instruction, joint sampling, or audit activity. Once the sample is drawn, fish will be measured for length and sexing (where necessary), and a sub-sample of otoliths will be removed. Information will be electronically recorded on site by the selected industry samplers into DFO's FFS (Fisheries Form System). Electronic files are provided to DFO for processing and quality control. Otoliths are collected separately by DFO staff for processing on a regular basis.


4TVn Cod Mixing Study

In late fall, 4T cod migrate to deeper waters along the southern edge of the Laurentian Channel slope where they form dense schools. Resident 4Vn cod may also migrate offshore in late fall, but whether or not they move out to the Channel slope, or mix with the 4T schools, is unknown. This creates an important fisheries management and conservation problem. The objective of the proposed experiment is to determine whether 4Vn resident cod migrate to the same offshore grounds as 4T cod, or alternatively, if the two stocks remain largely separate.

Methodology

Our approach is based on acoustic technology specifically designed for the monitoring of offshore movements of fish. The system can detect if and when migrating fish cross an automated monitoring line. In our application, resident 4Vn cod-tagged with acoustic transmitters-would be detected if they cross a monitoring line set inshore of the Laurentian Channel slope.

Monitoring Line

In August 2000, multiple receivers were deployed inshore of the main aggregations of cod observed in recent winters (Figure 1). The receiver line would extend from St. Paul's Island down to the 46 parallel by following the 100 - 150 m depth contour, a distance totaling approximately 160 km. Each receiver would be moored directly on the ocean bottom along with several hundred meters of recovery line stretched over the bottom. The units would be recovered using a hook line and differential GPS technology, an approach we tested and validated in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Cabot Strait during recent years. No surface floats would be attached to the moorings, thereby eliminating the risks of losing units due to stormy weather, propellers, or theft. Moreover, it is our recommendation that the receivers be retrieved only in the following spring. Receivers would thus record (in non-volatile memory) passing transmitters from August 2000 to February 2001 inclusively and assign a date and time stamp to each detection.

The detection range in underwater biotelemetry is generally limited to about 1 km because the acoustic output is attenuated by water absorption. It would be unfeasible however to deploy one receiver per kilometer in this study given the large area to be covered. Instead, we propose to separate the units by a few kilometers so as to detect a representative subsample of any acoustically tagged fish that crossed the line. By spacing the recorders at an interval of 5 km, about 20% (depending on background noises - ship traffic, etc.) of the 160 km offshore line would be monitored for the detection of cod migration. Alternatively, and at slightly higher cost, a doubling of the receiver density (1 unit / 2.5 km) would ensure a 32 to 40% coverage of the offshore line. In addition to the offshore line, a small number of receivers could be deployed at selected locations inshore. These receivers would be particularly helpful in the event that 4Vn cod are not detected offshore during autumn or winter. The detection of inshore signals would confirm that some 4Vn cod overwinter in inshore waters.

Transmitters

A large number of fish (n=200) would be acoustically tagged to insure that the results would be clear-cut. Soon after the deployment of the monitoring line, 4Vn resident cod would be surgically implanted with individually coded transmitters and immediately released into their inshore habitat. We have already tested the tagging procedure and survival rates were high (~93%). The few deaths occurred either during surgery or minutes after surgery in the recovery tank, and therefore were noticed before release. Also, swimming behavior of tagged individuals seemed normal in both tank and open-water environments, the latter being based on cod tracking using a boat-receiver combination.

This project is conducted under the framework of a separate contract between GEAC and DFO.


Click the year to access a copy of the scientific report for the project (PDF format):

2001

 

Grid Survey 3LNO Yellowtail

To enhance the fisheries research database in NAFO division 3NO, Fishery Products International (a GEAC member) has funded up to 4 yellowtail grid surveys each year since 1996. The continuing intent is to conduct a series of 1-2 surveys per year by a designated vessel (M.V. Atlantic Lindsey) employed for up to approximately two weeks duration for each survey to complement resource assessment activities carried out by DFO.

The objective of the surveys is to develop a relative abundance index and distribution series for yellowtail flounder, while providing an indication of by-catch abundance and distribution throughout the area.

FPI funds and performs the surveys with scientific guidance from DFO in its design and execution. The approximately 9,500 square mile survey area is divided into 100 equal grids, with one pre-selected tow for each grid. These towing stations will remain constant for future surveys. A bottom trawl (Engel 96 high lift), equipped with a Scanmar sensor and a 135 mm mesh codend is towed at approximately 3.0 knots for 60 minutes, 24 hours a day.

Technical personnel are engaged on board the vessel by DFO for data collection purposes. For each set the entire catch is recorded by species and measured and weighed. The detailed information collected during the survey is keypunched by the technicians into an electronic archived format provided by DFO, and is forwarded to DFO for their databases and for incorporation into the stock assessment process.

 

 

 

 

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