Project Description: Quantification of Seafloor Habitat Impacts from Bottom Trawling under Selected Trawl Modifications

Summary

The goal of this project is to quantify the relative impacts of traditional bottom trawl gear and modified trawl gear on the structural attributes of seafloor habitat that form an important component of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) for many groundfish species. Structural attributes in this context include topographic complexity in the substrate as well as any emergent biogenic structure, such as soft corals, sponges, and anemones. The traditional gear will use bottom-contact trawl doors, a small footrope, and un-elevated. Specific modifications to the new gear include pelagic trawl doors, door sensors, bottom contact and catch sensors, four seam nets, elevated sweeps, and spaced discs that have been shown to be effective in the Bering Sea and Europe at reducing benthic impacts.

Student Involvement

The project to-date has supported two graduate student research assistants and more than 20 undergraduate students through group-based capstone projects.

Broader Significance

In addition to potentially reducing benthic impacts relative to traditional gear, this modified gear has potential to significantly reduce fuel costs due to lower drag while at the same time producing a higher quality product due to greater door spread and shorter tow times.

IfAME Principal Investigator

Dr. James Lindholm

Financial Support

NOAA Saltonstall-Kennedy, Environmental Defense Fund, Private donations to the IfAME

Field Support

F/V Donna Kathleen, MARE, F/V Pioneer

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