Published: June 1, 2012
NOAA recently announced the selection of 13 new cooperative research projects between fishermen and scientists. The selections mark the 14th anniversary of a unique program, which was initiated by the scallop fishing industry.
In 1998, the scallop industry opted to set aside a portion of their total annual scallop catch in order to promote greater industry involvement in scientific research. Now, each year when the New England Fishery Management Council sets the annual catch limits for the fishing industry, a portion is reserved for cooperative research projects.
The 2012 projects include research to survey the scallop resource, better understand and reduce unintended catch of yellowtail flounder, skates and sea turtles in the commercial scallop fishery, improve vessel fuel efficiency, and minimize effects on habitat. This year’s research set-aside is approximately three percent of the total allowable scallop catch.
Approximately 60 vessels will participate in the program this year, and share in the sale proceeds of an estimated 1.2 million pounds of scallops in 2012, worth an estimated $12 million.
The scallop fishery is at the forefront of developing research set-aside programs, which are unique to federal fisheries in the northeast. Cooperative research programs are also in place for other fisheries including Atlantic herring, monkfish, Atlantic mackerel, black sea bass, bluefish, butterfish, Illex squid, Loligo squid, scup, summer flounder, and tilefish fisheries. This cooperative research is done in part to support NOAA’s scientific stock assessments.
NOAA’s Northeast Cooperative Research Program manages these activities with funding provided by the sale of set-aside allocations. These allocations are determined by either the New England or Mid-Atlantic fishery management council, depending on the fishery.
Cooperative research projects are selected through a competitive grants process, with priorities established by the councils and input from scientists and fishermen. From 2000 through 2011, 119 research projects were supported by approximately $67.7 million in research-set aside allocations. Vessel owners who took part in the cooperative research received an estimated $47 million for their work.