Greetings from a surprisingly spiffy McDonald's on Route 1 in Walpole, Mass. I'm on my way back to Portland, Maine, from this morning's jaunt to Point Judith, R.I., to join Wanchese, N.C., skipper Jimmy Ruhle, the crew of the Darana R and Virginia Institute of Marine Science researchers on a NEAMAP survey trip.
Today they sampled the last two of the 150 stations covered in the NEAMAP spring survey. That survey began April 24 in Hatteras, N.C., and is finishing up in the waters off Point Judith. Their travel basically mirrors the spring migration of the fish, says Ruhle. Come September, the boat will cover another 150 stations, starting in Point Judith and heading south toward Hatteras.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission developed NEAMAP — the Northeast East Area Monitoring and Assessment Program — to coordinate fisheries independent monitoring activities in the northeast. Its goal is to coordinate and standardize procedures, and improve data quality and accessibility.
What began as a pilot project in 2006 has grown into a program boasting more than six years of data for fish in nearshore waters that federal and state survey programs don't cover. Given the diversity and quantity of fish involved, fishery managers need the NEAMAP data to fill that gap, "otherwise there would be a massive hole in the data," says VIMS' Jim Gartland, the NEAMAP program's general manager. That's Gartland and his VIMS cohorts, Evan McOmber, Dustin Greeg, Kevin Spanik and Jeff Eckert, examining the results of one of the day's two tows in the video below.
For his part, Ruhle, who has been involved with the program since 2008, says he can't say enough good things about the VIMS researchers, who have been more than willing to recognize and utilize fishermen's expertise in collecting program data. "Their work ethic is unbelievable," Ruhle says.
"Now that I see the acceptance of this project being used in a beneficial way for the industry, and the industry has confidence in it," Ruhle adds, "I'd like to see the program expanded."
I can't help him there; after all, I'm just a lowly scribe. But I can and will expand on today's NEAMAP trip in an upcoming issue of NF. It's a story well-worth telling.