Development of a Sentinel Survey / Fishery in the Eastern Gulf of Maine

The Eastern Gulf of Maine (EGOM), although not closed for groundfish, has been perceived to
have low density of groundfish stocks. There is virtually no fishing effort for groundfish species,
although lobstermen have reported catching groundfish as bycatch in their traps and Maine
Department of Marine Resources (DMR) sea sampling program has confirmed groundfish catch
in lobster traps. Fisheries-independent survey programs such as bottom trawl surveys by the
Maine DMR and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have sampling stations within the
EGOM, however, their spatial and temporal coverage is limited. Because trawl gears cannot be
used in areas with complex bottom, their catchability for some species (e.g., cusk and wolfish)
tends to be very low. The overriding objectives for the sentinel survey/fishery are to provide
critical information for monitoring and assessing groundfish stocks and their ecosystem in the
study area, and to involve the fishing industry directly in the scientific assessment process.
We develop the EGOM sentinel survey/fishery to satisfy (1) the wish of fishermen participants to contribute their knowledge and experience in determining groundfish abundance and
distribution; (2) statistical rigor required for stock assessments; (3) the opportunity to compare
different sampling gears and survey designs; and (4) the opportunity to monitor potential
recovery of groundfish populations on historical groundfish fishing grounds. We have begun the
first of a two-phase demersal longline survey/fishery: commercial fishing in the first two years,
followed by a survey designed to allow for a combined survey/fishery. This proposal is for the
2nd phase. We analyzed the data of some key fish species collected in the 1st phase of the sentinel survey fishery and in similar areas in different sampling programs (i.e., Maine DMR lobster sea sampling program, Maine DMR bottom trawl survey, and Maine DMR longline halibut survey) and propose a longline sentinel survey/fishery design that can meet the four criteria listed above.

Based on the comments we have received from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, we have modified the initial design to include a jigging component in waters shallower than 50 meters which cannot be covered by longline because of gear conflicts (i.e., lobster traps). The
information derived in this study will help us better understand the dynamics of some important
groundfish species such as Atlantic cod, cusk, Atlantic halibut in shallow inshore waters, for
which we only have had limited information.