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New Type of Trawl Net Avoids Cod

Nov 15, 2016
2016 Issue 2

After centuries of targeting Gulf of Maine cod, groundfish fishermen are now looking for ways to avoid catching it. For many fishermen, drastically reduced catch quotas for Gulf of Maine cod are making it difficult to target other species that are more abundant.

To get around this problem, a group of New England fishermen, scientists, and a net manufacturer have designed a brand new trawl net that can avoid cod while retaining flatfish. The ultra low opening trawl (ULOT) has a smaller vertical opening than a typical trawl net; just over 2 feet compared to the 6-foot opening in standard nets. This design allows for cod to swim up and over the net, escaping capture.

The project team took a systematic approach to designing the net, starting with brainstorming sessions where they zeroed in on a design concept. They used computer simulation to further refine the design before heading up to the Marine Institute in Newfoundland where they tested a model net in the flume tank. From there they built a full-scale net and evaluated its performance aboard project team member Jim Ford’s vessel, the F/V Lisa Ann III.

On the water, the ULOT net reduced cod catch by 45% while having no significant impact on catch of other species such as yellowtail flounder, dabs, grey sole, skate, monkfish, and whiting. In addition to these impressive results, the ULOT also boasted a nearly 7% reduction in fuel consumption. In other words, fishermen can fish longer without catching cod while also saving on fuel.

With three nets of varying sizes available for loan free of charge, the group is eager to spread the news about the ULOT throughout the fleet. The loan program runs through 2017, and fishermen are encouraged to test out the nets on their own vessels. The team hopes that as word gets out, more fishermen will be able to extend their seasons a little longer.

The project team included fishermen Jim Ford, Tom Testaverde, Carl Bouchard, and Dan Murphy; scientists Mike Pol, Steve Eayrs, Chris Glass, and Pingguo He; and net builder Jon Knight of Superior Trawl.

To borrow a net or to learn more, contact Steve Eayrs at or (207) 228-1659.