The Sentinel Survey Fishery is a federally-funded research program in collaboration with the University of Maine that is shedding new light on the central question of why Gulf of Maine cod stocks are in collapse and what can be done to reverse the trend.
Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries funds commercial fishermen in Hancock and Washington counties to use hooks, the most habitat friendly gear available, to catch and survey groundfish in eastern Maine. This issue of localized spatial depletion that the Sentinel Survey is documenting has now become central to the region-wide scientific and policy debate over groundfish science and management. The data from the survey is being used to improve stock assessments and future management plans.
Select fishermen began exploratory fishing to collect spatially explicit groundfish data in previously depleted areas in the eastern Gulf of Maine. Trips are monitored by using University observers and techniques based on NFMS Northeast Fisheries Observer Program. Information is collected and shared by Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries and University of Maine and provided to the National Marine Fisheries Service to improve the assessment of key groundfish stocks. Data collected through the Sentinel Survey Fishery will be critical information to assess stock recovery and set future management plans.
Eastern Maine’s coastal shelf has been depleted of groundfish for decades. Fish stocks have begun to rebuild elsewhere off New England’s coast with the help of spawning and habitat closures. In eastern Maine however, there are no spawning area protections. If we can demonstrate that the fish here need greater protections, then we can work with the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop them and rebuild a viable fishery for cod, haddock and other groundfish.