National Fisherman

Cover Story Excerpt: Haddock hunter

By eliminating cod and flounder bycatch, the Ruhle trawl enables New Englanders to target more abundant stocks

By John Lee

Carl Bouchard has a haddock tow in mind: deeper water on the edge of Jeffreys Ledge. "We'll start there," Bouchard says, pointing at his plotter. "If we don't find 'em there we'll move up shallower." Bouchard, 68, has been trawling and lobstering the western Gulf of Maine for long enough to know some things: "There are no guarantees about finding haddock," he notes, "especially when nobody's been out in three months."

Bouchard's boat, the Stormy Weather, is a classic Novi, 45 feet long and 20 feet wide — beamy, stable and slow. As we steam south toward Jeffreys Ledge off Cape Ann, Mass., another boat steams alongside us. The Lady Victoria, captained by Charlie Felch, out of Hampton Beach, N.H., is going to be our partner, our significant other for the next three days. She has a similar look, dimensions and horsepower, nearly an exact match for the Stormy.

Similarity is critical when one is conducting side-by-side research tows. It acts as a variance control. This experiment is simply one net against another, not in competition, but in the collection of numbers — bycatch numbers. "Our goal's to prove to NMFS that we can tow an experimental trawl for haddock in the spring and not catch a lot of codfish or flounder," Bouchard says. "We want to be able to use this net from April into May. Right now we can't — that bottom is closed then."

The game plan for the next three days is straightforward: One boat will tow the test trawl (called the Eliminator during trials and later renamed for the late Phil Ruhle Sr.) and the other boat will use a regular two-seam groundfish net with a 90-foot sweep. The following day, the boats will trade nets. All the tows will be inside a pair of closed areas known as blocks 132 and 133, which were closed to trawling and gillnetting for three months beginning last March.

On the first day aboard the Stormy, it's a full house — Bouchard, deckhand Paul Kuncho, a Sea Grant writer, a researcher, and me. The wheelhouse bustles on the ride out. One question hangs on everyone's mind: Will the new trawl reduce codfish bycatch in an area that has more than a few codfish around?

Having a lot of people milling around the wheelhouse isn't for every captain. A couple of writers asking simultaneous, rapid-fire questions about "biomass" and "ecosystem-based management," and many captains would've turned the boat around. Yet Bouchard, a man at ease, a true graybeard, sits in the helm chair chewing a blue toothpick and discussing, happily and eloquently, the cod and haddock situation from Provincetown on Cape Cod to the Isle of Shoals off southernmost Maine and New Hampshire.

Kuncho, 37, is down below in his bunk, catching a catnap. Bouchard has been active in cooperative research for a decade. The University of New Hampshire knows him well. "A lot can be learned when information is shared. Science to fisherman, fisherman to science," Bouchard says. "At this point, I'd say it's essential."

National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 3/10/15

In this episode, Online Editor Leslie Taylor talks with Mike McLouglin, vice president of Dunlop Industrial and Protective Footwear.

National Fisherman Live: 2/24/15

In this episode:

March date set for disaster aid dispersal
Oregon LNG project could disrupt fishing
NOAA tweaks gear marking requirement
N.C. launches first commercial/recreational dock
Spiny lobster traps limits not well received

Inside the Industry

SeaShare, a non-profit organization that facilitates donations of seafood to feed the hungry, announced on Wednesday, July 29 that it had partnered up with Alaska seafood companies, freight companies and the Coast Guard, to coordinate the donation and delivery of 21,000 pounds of halibut to remote villages in western Alaska. 

On Wednesday, the Coast Guard loaded 21,000 pounds of donated halibut on its C130 airplane in Kodiak and made the 634-mile flight to Nome.

Read more...

The New England Fishery Management Council  is soliciting applications for seats on the Northeast Trawl Survey Advisory Panel and the deadline to apply is July 31 at 5:00 p.m.

The panel will consist of 16 members including members of the councils and the Atlantic States Fishery Commission, industry experts, non-federal scientists and Northeast Fisheries Science Center scientists. Panel members are expected to serve for three years.

Read more...
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