Trip Reports - Drop Chain

Trip 1 Report:

12" Drop Chain Scientific Research Trip Report
Area 1 - Block Island Sound, Rhode Island

Trip 1, Day 1

The first day of fishing began on Saturday June 25th at 5:00 am. During the 45-minute steam to the fishing grounds we calibrated all of our equipment and attached both our temperature/depth sensor and an ambient light sensor to the nets. Today, the F/V Sea Breeze Too was towing the control net and the F/V Elizabeth Helen was towing the experimental net. There were overcast skies throughout much of the day, only clearing up slightly around late afternoon. Light winds were consistent through the day ranging between 2.5 to 6 knots. The day started off cool in the morning with temperatures around 16.5°C during the first tow and rising to 22.5°C by early afternoon. By about 5:00 pm, we were finishing up with the last tow of the day. The clouds had finally given way to partly sunny skies with temperatures at around a comfortable 21.5°C. The F/V Sea Breeze Too had final combined tow weights of 814.5 lbs of squid and 9.3 lbs of winter flounder and the F/V Elizabeth Helen had final combined tow weights of 1202.3 lbs of squid and 5.52 lbs of winter flounder for the first day.

Trip 1, Day 2

Day two began at 7:00 am on Sunday June 26th. Today, the F/V Elizabeth Helen was given the opportunity to tow the control net and the F/V Sea Breeze Too would be towing the experimental net. Sea conditions were pristine this morning with wave heights no larger then 1 to 2 feet and winds barely noticeable at 1 mph. We would be starting the day towing west, with the tide. By noon and the start of the 4th tow, the winds had picked up slightly and skies had given way to a beautiful sunny day. The final tow began its haul back at 3:44 pm. We had been towing against the tide this time while heading east back towards the port. The F/V Elizabeth Helen, towing the control net, ended day two with a total of 593.1 lbs of squid and 23.67 lbs of winter flounder and the F/V Sea Breeze Too, towing the experimental net, caught 703.9 lbs of squid and a mere 2.0 lbs of winter flounder.

Trip 1, Day 3

The first tow of day three began at 6:27 am on Monday June 27th. The nets were once again switched, with the F/V Sea Breeze Too towing the control net for a second time and the F/V Elizabeth Helen towing the experimental net for its second time. The day started off warm and sunny, with temperatures at about 21.5°C and winds being barely noticeable at 1 mph. The sea was as calm and flat as the surface of a mirror. Aboard the F/V Elizabeth Helen, Eric Matzen, an underwater videographer, would be taking underwater footage of the drop chain in action. After each tow, the data from the digital camcorder was reviewed in order to determine the right location and camera angle needed to produce the footage we were looking for. On the second tow, the head rope sensor was removed to achieve better footage, so we were unable to record any data for the head rope for the rest of the day. However, due to a combination of very dense fog that had rolled in and an extremely muddy bottom, we were unable to collect any usable footage. Final catch totals for day three on the F/V Elizabeth Helen were 1087.9 lbs of squid and 0.5 lbs of winter flounder. The F/V Sea Breeze Too day three totals were 961.6 lbs of squid and 18.5 lbs of winter flounder.

Trip 1, Day 4

The fourth and final day of fishing began with the first tow starting at 6:20 am on Tuesday June 28th. The control and experimental nets were switched for the last time, with the F/V Sea Breeze Too towing the experimental net and the F/V Elizabeth Helen towing the control net. The day began with a thick blanket of morning fog and very warm 23.0°C air temperatures. The sea was once again as smooth as glass with not even a hint of movement in the air. Everything was going well up until tow three of the day, when a slight camera malfunction occurred, but the camera was up and running again by the next tow. The last tow ended at 3:50 pm and we promptly began to break down and clean our equipment while we steamed back to port. Final catch totals for day four on the F/V Elizabeth Helen were 653.7 lbs of squid and 71.7 lbs of winter flounder. Final day four catch totals for the F/V Sea Breeze Too were 645.5 lbs of squid and 21.65 lbs of winter flounder.

 

 

Trip #2

Scientific Research Trip Report
Winter Flounder Drop Chain Project 2011

 

Trip #2 of the winter flounder drop chain project began on a sunny Wednesday on August 10th, 2011. The Cornell research crew, with all gear packed and ready, reached the centuries old fishing port of Montauk, Long Island, at about 5:00 pm. We met up with Captain Shaun Jones of the F/V Pontos and Captain Roman Wloch of the F/V Perception and began the process of loading our equipment onto the vessels, where we would be staying for the next five days. Once again we would be testing the functional performance of avoidance gear designed to reduce winter flounder bycatch retention, while also attempting to keep from negatively affecting the catch efficiency of squid in the small mesh fishery within the southern New England and mid-Atlantic winter flounder stock area.

The avoidance gear designed for this experiment was a standard 4-seam, 3-bridle, small mesh box trawl net with an added 12" drop chain sweep and a 24" adjustment to the headrope. This net served as our experimental net. In order to determine if the aforementioned avoidance gear would be an effective and easily adaptable solution, a paired-tow scientific design was utilized. In order for a paired-tow design to be viable, both vessels have to be very similar to one another. The F/V Pontos is a 76 foot long trawler with a 720hp engine and the F/V Perception is an 82 foot long trawler with a 600hp engine. The two vessels fished side by side; the experimental net with the 12" drop chain sweep and 24" head rope adjustment was towed parallel to the control net, which was a standard 4-seam, 3-bridle, small mesh box trawl net, with a standard chain sweep measuring 3 links, or 5 inches. The sole difference between the two nets is the addition of the drop chain sweep and the headrope adjustment to the experimental net. Both vessels use Tyberon Type II size 96 doors and 91 8" ball floats known as cans. Also, both vessels set in and hauled back at the same time, towed in the same direction at the same speed, and let out the same length of tow cable. The orientation of both vessels, in relation to the shore, was switched after every tow. Achieving consistency over the three critical dimensions of headrope height, door spread and sweep area were imperative to the experiment. Over the course of the 4 days of research, both vessels completed six paired-tows each day for a total of 24 paired-tows. At the end of each day, the control and experimental nets were switched between vessels so that each vessel had two days towing both nets.

We began with a 30 minute net mensuration tow at 8:39 pm on August 10th. This preliminary ‘shakedown' tow was designed to quantitatively determine that both vessels in the pair were performing equally by taking measurements of the door spread and headrope height every 3 minutes for the full length of the 30-minute tow. This allowed for the calibration of both vessels' gear to the same depth, tow speed and tow direction at approximately the same time. The first day of fishing began on Thursday, August 11th, 2011, with tow one in the water at 7:00 am. Both vessels were towing west, parallel to the shoreline, with the F/V Pontos taking position as the "inside" vessel, towing closest to the shore. The skies were clear and sunny throughout the day, with winds out of the north at speeds ranging between 8 and 14 mph. Air temperatures were between 24 and 26 degrees Celsius throughout the day. On tow #3 for the F/V Pontos, we increased the tow wire length in an attempt to match the F/V Perception's spread readings. We were towing 75fa but ended with an increase to 89fa for the last 3 tows. The spread was then consistent around 37fa, matching the spread of the F/V Perception. The last tow was hauled back at 2:45 pm. The F/V Pontos, towing the control net, had final day one combined tow weights of 1357.0lbs of squid and 28.7lbs of winter flounder. The F/V Perception, towing the experimental net, had final day one combined tow weights of 1508.7lbs of squid and 7.15lbs of winter flounder. The biggest difference was seen in the total catch of skates, with the F/V Pontos landing 2808.6lbs, and the F/V Perception landing only 192.8lbs.

Day two began on Friday, August 12th, 2011, with tow #7 in the water at 5:45 am. Overnight, the nets were switched, so that today the F/V Pontos would tow the experimental net and the F/V Perception would tow the control net. Both vessels started towing east with the shoreline, with the F/V Pontos again starting off as the inside vessel. It was a beautiful morning, clear and calm, with light winds ranging from 2 to 10 mph out of the north. Air temperatures ranged from 21 degrees Celsius in the morning to 25 degrees Celsius in the afternoon. The day went smoothly with no problems arising. On both vessels, nearly every tow had a few bull-nosed or cow-nosed rays or a large roughtail ray. On the F/V Pontos, tow #12 was hauled back in at 2:25 pm, containing a large thresher shark and also a sandbar shark. The F/V Pontos, towing the experimental net, had final day two catch totals of 5028.4lbs of squid, 1.4lbs of winter flounder, and 35.9lbs of skate. The F/V Perception, towing the control net, had final day two catch totals of 5535.8lbs of squid, 29.4lbs of winter flounder, and 2361.5lbs of skate.

Day three began on Saturday, August 13th, 2011, with tow #13 in the water at 5:43 am. Today the F/V Pontos would tow the control net, and the F/V Perception would tow the experimental net. The vessels started the day towing east with the shoreline, with the F/V Pontos acting as the inside vessel. Air temperatures started off around 23 degrees Celsius at sunrise and would rise throughout the day, reaching almost 28 degrees Celsius by the afternoon. The winds died down today with only a few gusts of 2 to 3 mph. A few bull-nosed and roughtail rays were caught onboard the F/V Perception, while the F/V Pontos had hauled in an Atlantic sturgeon on the 17th tow. Final catch weights on the F/V Pontos, towing the control net, were 1801.8lbs of squid, 60.6lbs of winter flounder, and 957.2lbs of skate. Final catch weights on the F/V Perception, towing the experimental net, were 1837.7lbs of squid, 22.2lbs of winter flounder, and 84.0lbs of skate.

The final day of fishing began on Sunday, August 14th, 2011, with tow #19 in the water at 6:11 am. Today, the F/V Pontos would be towing the experimental net, and the F/V Perception would be towing the control net. The vessels started the day towing west with the shoreline, with the F/V Pontos again acting as the inside vessel. It was a very wet day due to storms in the area that brought heavy rain and fog. Air temperatures stayed around 22 to 24 degrees Celsius with wind speeds between 14 and 18 mph. A few bull-nosed and cow-nosed rays were caught in the morning by both vessels. The captains decided to make a change in location after tow #21, so we steamed a bit further east along the shoreline into shallower waters. This ended up causing a lower catch of squid, and a higher catch of butterfish and fluke on tows 22 and 23. We again steamed further east for tow #24. Final catch weights on the F/V Pontos were 1072.2lbs of squid, 4.1 lbs of winter flounder, and 23.6lbs of skate. Final catch weights on the F/V Perception were 1177.4lbs of squid, 22.3lbs of winter flounder, and 1157.2lbs of skate.

After quickly reviewing the data we had collected over the last 4 days, we were able to further discern that the experimental 12" drop chain may in fact be a working solution to help reduce winter flounder bycatch retention. The experimental net consistently caught only a very small fraction of the total amount of demersal species that were caught in the standard control net. This was most dramatically seen in the total weight of skates caught with each respective net. Over the course of the entire trip, a total of 7284.5lbs of skate were caught in the control net and only 336.3lbs of skate were caught in the experimental net. The trip ended up being a definitive success. We would like to thank the crews of the F/V Pontos and F/V Perception for their efforts and time spent working with us on this project.

 

 

Trip # 3

Scientific Research Trip Report
Winter Flounder Drop Chain Project 2011

 

Trip # 3 of the winter flounder drop chain project began on Monday October 24th, 2011. The Cornell research crew, with all our gear and research equipment, reached the port of Montauk on the east end of Long Island, New York at about 5:00 pm. We rendezvoused with each of the captains, Captain Shaun Jones of the F/V Pontos and Captain Dave White of the F/V Perception, and loaded our equipment onto the vessels which would be our home for the next five days. Once again we would be testing the functional performance of avoidance gear designed to reduce winter flounder bycatch retention, while maintaining catch efficiency of squid in the small mesh fishery within the southern New England and mid-Atlantic winter flounder stock area.

The avoidance gear being tested during this research was a standard 4-seam, 3-bridle, small mesh box trawl coupled with a 12" drop chain sweep and an increment of 24" added to the headrope. This net served as our experimental net. In order to determine the effectiveness of the avoidance gear design, a paired-tow scientific design was utilized. In order for a paired-tow design to be viable, both vessels have to be very similar to one another. The F/V Pontos is a 76 foot long trawler with a 720hp engine and the F/V Perception is an 82 foot long trawler with a 600hp engine. The two vessels fished side by side; the experimental net with the 12" drop chain sweep and 24" head rope adjustment was towed parallel to the control net, which was a standard 4-seam, 3-bridle, small mesh box trawl, with the standard or commonly used chain sweep that measures 5 inches. The difference between the two nets is the addition of 7" to the drop chain sweep and the addition of 24" to the length of the head rope in the so-called experimental net. Both vessels use Thyboron Type II size 96 doors and ninety one 8" polyball floats known as "cans". Also, both vessels attempted to keep variables associated with fishing as consistent as possible. These variables included; set in and haul back times, tow direction, tow speed, and door spread. The orientation of both vessels, in relation to the shore, was switched after every tow. Achieving consistency over the critical dimensions of headrope height and door spread were imperative to the experiment. This often proved difficult in relation to headrope height as the sensor for this information on both vessels net mensuration systems would not function consistently or accurately. Door spread proved easier to monitor as the sensors for this information functioned well. To maintain door spread consistency, it often was required of one vessel to tow with more or less tow wire than the other vessel. This difference in tow wire length was deemed acceptable and necessary to maintain consistency in the more important aspect of door spread. Over the course of the 4 days of research, both vessels completed six tows each day for a total of 24 paired-tows. At the end of each day, the control and experimental nets were switched between vessels so that each vessel had two days towing both nets.

The first day of fishing began on Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, with tow one started at 7:04 am. Both vessels towed east, parallel to the shoreline, with the F/V Perception acting as the "inside" vessel, towing closest to the shore. The weather cooperated throughout the day, with light winds out of the northwest and seasonable air temperatures. Throughout the day, the F/V Pontos made adjustments to the tow wire length in an attempt to match the F/V Perception's spread readings. The F/V Perception, towing the control net, had final day one combined tow weights of 3,504.7 lbs of squid and 0.0 lbs of winter flounder. The F/V Pontos, towing the experimental net, had final day one combined tow weights of 3,508.1lbs of squid and 0.0 lbs of winter flounder.

Day two commenced on Wednesday, October 26th, 2011, with tow #7 (tows were recorded consecutively as the days progressed) in the water at 6:48 am. Overnight, the nets were switched, so that today the Pontos would tow the control net and the Perception would tow the experimental net. Both vessels began the day towing west parallel with the shoreline, with the F/V Perception again starting off as the "inside" vessel. It was a beautiful sunrise and the weather continued to remain friendly throughout the day. Winds were again calm but had changed direction and were now from the southwest. This helped elevate air temperatures to seasonably warm levels. Tow # 11 required two attempts to complete as the Perception's first attempt resulted in a foul set when the backstraps on one of the otter doors became tangled. The F/V Pontos, towing the control net, had day two catch totals of 2,453.5 lbs of squid and 0.0 lbs of winter flounder. The F/V Perception, towing the experimental net, had day two catch totals of 2,643.7 lbs of squid and 0.0 lbs of winter flounder.

Day three began on Thursday, October 27th, 2011, with tow #13 actively fishing at 6:48 am. Today the F/V Pontos would tow the experimental net and the F/V Perception would tow the control net. The vessels started the day towing east with the Perception located as the inside vessel. The morning presented us with a light rain but by early afternoon the sun had made an appearance. The winds continued to be light and out of the southwest and temperatures remained mild. Several changes in tow cable length were made throughout the day by the Pontos and Perception to account for changes in depth and additionally by the Pontos to stay consistent with the door spread of the Perception. There was also a 11 /2 hour delay during the day for the crew of the Pontos to make some gear related repairs. Six one-hour tows were completed by each vessel bringing the total of paired tows completed to 18 at this point in the trip. Final catch weights on the F/V Pontos (experimental) were 1,923.6 lbs of squid and 0.0 lbs of winter flounder. The catch totals for the F/V Perception (control) were 1,533.0 lbs of squid and 0.0 lbs of winter flounder.

The final day of fishing was Friday, October 28th, 2011, with tow #19 in the water at 6:58 am. Today, the F/V Pontos would be towing the control net, and the F/V Perception would be towing the experimental net. The vessels started the day towing west with the F/V Perception as the inside vessel relative to the shoreline. The day began overcast and ended as bright and sunny. Wind speeds remained relatively calm but despite this fact there was a swell on with wave heights in the 6 to 8 foot range. Air temperatures had also dropped significantly bringing a chill to the air and would now be labeled seasonably cool. The day progressed smoothly with no significant problems encountered by either boat allowing both boats to complete the six tows and reaching the desired 24 paired tow total for this trip. Catch totals for the day on the F/V Pontos were 1,883.5 lbs of squid and 0.0 lbs of winter flounder while the F/V Perception had 2215.3 lbs of squid and 0.0 lbs of winter flounder.

After reviewing the data we had collected over the last 4 days it is obvious that no statement relative to winter flounder bycatch can be made about this trip because no winter flounder were caught. But, what we can say by quickly looking at the data, is that the experimental 12" drop chain consistently caught a small fraction of the total amount of species of bycatch, be it demersal or other, when compared to the standard control net. It is also apparent that the experimental 12" drop chains perform well in retaining squid, which is the target species. We would like to thank the crews of the F/V Pontos and the F/V Perception for their time and continued efforts to help us bring this project to a successful conclusion.

 

Trip # 4

Scientific Research Trip Report
Winter Flounder Drop Chain Project 2012

 

Trip # 4, which was the final trip for this project and would complete the inshore aspect of the research, began on Friday July 6th 2012. The Cornell research crew, with all our gear and research equipment, arrived the port of Point Judith, Rhode Island at about 8:00 pm on July 5th 2012. We rendezvoused with each of the captains, Captain John Dougherty of the F/V Linda Marie and Captain Steve Arnold of the F/V Sea Breeze Too and loaded our equipment onto the boats. There was a change in vessels compared to trip 1 which was the first half of the inshore portion of the research. The F/V Elizabeth Helen, owned and operated by Steve Arnold, sunk in Block Island Sound in January of 2012 and was replaced by the F/V Linda Marie. Captain Steve Arnold replaced owner/operator Phil Ruhle Jr. aboard the Sea Breeze Too while Captain Phil attended to obligations aboard another vessel. Once again we would be testing the functional performance of avoidance gear designed to reduce winter flounder bycatch retention, while maintaining catch efficiency of squid in the small mesh fishery within the southern New England and mid-Atlantic winter flounder stock area.

The avoidance gear being tested during this research was a standard 4-seam, 3-bridle, small mesh box trawl coupled with a 12" drop chain sweep and an increment of 24" added to the head rope. This net served as our experimental net. In order to determine the effectiveness of the avoidance gear design, a paired-tow scientific method was utilized. In order for paired-tow research to be viable, both vessels have to be similar to one another. The F/V Linda Marie is a 59 foot long trawler in the 450hp range and the F/V Sea Breeze Too is a 55 foot long trawler also in the 450hp range. The two vessels fished side by side; the experimental net with the 12" drop chain sweep and 24" head rope adjustment was towed parallel to the control net, which was a standard 4-seam, 3-bridle, small mesh box trawl, with the standard or commonly used drop chain sweep that measures 5 inches. The difference between the two nets is the addition of 7" to the drop chain sweep and the addition of 24" to the length of the head rope in the so-called experimental net. Both vessels use Tyberon Type II size 63 doors and forty 8" polyball floats known as "cans". Also, both vessels attempted to keep variables associated with fishing as consistent as possible. These variables included; set in and haul back times, tow direction, tow speed, and door spread. The orientation of both vessels, in relation to the shore, was switched after every tow. Achieving consistency over the critical dimensions of head rope height and door spread were imperative to the experiment. This proved difficult in relation to head rope height as the F/V Linda Marie is not equipped with a net mensuration system and the headrope sensor on the F/V Sea Breeze Too would not function consistently or accurately. Door spread proved easier to monitor on the F/V Sea Breeze Too as the sensors for this information functioned well. On the F/V Linda Marie we made manual calculations of door spread at the beginning of each day in an effort to stay consistent with the F/V Sea Breeze Too. In addition, to maintain door spread consistency, it was often required of one vessel to tow with more or less tow wire than the other vessel. This difference in tow wire length was deemed acceptable and necessary to maintain consistency in the more important aspect of door spread. Over the course of the 3 days of research, both vessels completed eight tows on day 1, eleven tows on day 2, and seven tows on day 3 for a total of 26 paired-tows.

The first day of fishing began on Friday July 6th 2012 in Nantucket Sound south of Martha's Vineyard. The first tow started at 7:20 am. Both vessels towed south-southwest at about 3 knots. The weather cooperated throughout the day, with light winds out of the east and seasonable air temperatures. The F/V Linda Marie made 4 control net tows and 4 experimental net tows with 727.6 lbs of squid and 14.5 lbs of winter flounder and 599.4 lbs of squid and 8.6 lbs of winter flounder, respectively. The F/V Sea Breeze Too made 4 experimental net tows and 4 control net tows with 544.9 lbs of squid and 2.7 lbs of winter flounder and 459.0 lbs of squid and 21.7 lbs of winter flounder, respectively.

Day two commenced on Saturday July 7th 2012, with tow #9 (tows were recorded consecutively as the days progressed) in the water at 5:28 am. Both vessels started the day fishing in Nantucket Sound south of Martha's Vineyard and began towing west. It was a beautiful sunrise and the weather continued to remain friendly throughout the day. Winds were again calm but had changed direction and were now from the northwest. The F/V Linda Marie made 4 experimental net trawls and 7 control net trawls with 908.0 lbs of squid and 7.6 lbs of winter flounder and 1810.2 lbs of squid and 28.7 lbs of winter flounder respectively. The F/V Sea Breeze Too made 4 control net trawls and 7 experimental trawls with 715.7 lbs of squid and 28.9 lbs of winter flounder and 1401.7 lbs of squid and 6.7 lbs of winter flounder respectively.

Day three began on Sunday July 8th 2012 with tow #20 actively fishing at 5:26 am. The vessels continued to fish in Nantucket Sound south of Martha's Vineyard. The vessels started the day towing west. The winds continued to be light and out of the west while air temperatures rose and the day became hot. Seven one hour tows were completed by each vessel bringing the total of paired tows completed to 26 at this point in the trip. The F/V Linda Marie made 2 control net trawls and 5 experimental net trawls with 502.8 lbs of squid and 5.4 lbs of winter flounder and 779.7 lbs of squid and 1.8 lbs of winter flounder, respectively. The F/V Sea Breeze Too made 2 experimental net trawls and 5 control net trawls with 491.9 lbs of squid and 1.1 lbs of winter flounder and 721.7 lbs of squid and 17 lbs of winter flounder, respectively.

After quickly reviewing the data we had collected over the last 3 days, the experimental 12" dropchain net shows less than a 2.5% reduction in squid catch while reducing the winter flounder catch by over 400%. Also, the experimental 12" drop chain consistently reduced the bycatch of other species of finfish and crustaceans across the board. We would like to thank the crews of the F/V Linda Marie and the F/V Sea Breeze Too for their time and efforts.