Pacific Northwest research projects to reduce the bycatch of Chinook salmon, rockfish and crab will share in nearly $2.5 million in federal fisheries grants announced Aug. 29.
The 14 nationwide awards from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration included two grants to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and one to Oregon State University.
A $130,043 grant to the PSMFC is for research on the use of artificial light to enhance the escapement of Chinook salmon when used in conjunction with a bycatch reduction device in a Pacific hake mid-water trawl net.
The investigator will work with Pacific Hake fishermen and a net manufacturer to determine whether artificial light helps these kings to escape trawl nets. The Pacific hake fishery, the largest groundfish fishery by volume off the west coast of the US, also catches king salmon, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
If Chinook salmon bycatch exceeds certain levels, then consultation under the fishery’s ESA-related biological opinion will need to be reinitiated, which could result in additional fishing restrictions for the hake fishery.
A second PSMFC project to reduce bycatch of overfished and rebuilding rockfish species in the Pacific hake fishery received a $144,598 grant.
For this research off the coast of Oregon and/or Washington, the investigator will work with Pacific Hake fishermen and net manufacturers to test an excluder device designed to reduce rockfish bycatch in that fishery.
In 2011, Pacific hake began to be managed under the West Coast groundfish trawl catch share program, which created individual fishing quotas as well as individual bycatch quotas. If a fisherman participating in this program reaches a rockfish bycatch quota before reaching his Pacific hake fishing quota, then his fishing season would end. Developing three gear modifications that reduce rockfish bycatch while retaining a high proportion of targeted species is very important to the hake fishery.
Oregon State University received $68,289 for first ever field validation of the reflex action mortality predictor (RAMP) approach for determining crab bycatch mortality.
They will try to determine crab survival after being caught and released as bycatch.
These investigators will also estimate Dungeness crab survival rates after release in Oregon trap fisheries and evaluate ways to increase survival of bycatch caught crab.
If the RAMP is determined to be effective, then it could be used to determine survival in various other U.S. fisheries.
Because this project involves several commercial fishermen, the investigators hope this project will encourage additional fishermen to be involved in the research, NOAA officials said.
More information on these and other grants is at www.nmfs.noaa.gov.