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A Network Approach to Fishing Gear Research

Mar 1, 2011
Winter 2011

Groundfishermen in New England have been facing a challenging transition to catch-share management, fishing within groups known as sectors; but they are also finding opportunities for innovation. A precedent-setting group of partners launched the Northeast Gear Conservation Engineering and Demonstration Network (GEARNET), funded by NOAA's Cooperative Research Program. Fishermen are identifying, prioritizing, and designing studies to address the urgent research needs of the recently formed sectors.

Partners include GMRI, Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries, SMAST, Superior Trawl, and a growing number of fishermen. This broad collaboration represents an exciting new paradigm for research in the region. For a full list of partners, visit

GMRI Scientists Shelly Tallack and Steve Eayrs, along with Director of Community Initiatives Kate Burns and other partners, had initial conversations with sector members that revealed how difficult this management shift has been. There is significant frustration and concern among fishermen for the future of their businesses and families. These meetings set the stage for the industry to submit proposals for GEARNET funding to identify gear modifications that could help them fish more effectively.

Josh Wiersma, Manager of Northeast Fishery Sectors 11 and 12, reflected, "GEARNET recognizes the need for industry involvement in the determination of research priorities. This is a change in philosophy and is an important step in the evolution of collaborative research. It will likely lead to a more sustainable and useful research program in the long term."