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News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462
For Release: September 29, 2003
Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402
Stephanie Powell 222-4700 ext. 4418

DEM ANNOUNCES THAT THE SECOND INDUSTRY-BASED YELLOWTAIL SURVEY IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN ON OCTOBER 1

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management announces that two Point Judith-based fishing vessels, the F/V Heather Lynn and the F/V Mary Elena, will begin their second phase of assessing Southern New England yellowtail flounder distribution and abundance. The fall survey, expected to begin on October 1, is the second phase of the Cooperative Partners Research Initiative (CRPI), which was spearheaded by funding from Congress in 2000 to promote cooperative research efforts on New England groundfish species. The CRPI includes members from DEM, the commercial fishing industry, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. The project is being managed by DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife.

The first phase of the pilot study was conducted in April and May of 2003. Survey vessels completed over 300 tows throughout the Southern New England and Mid-Atlantic area, collecting biological information on length frequencies, sex, maturity stages, and stomach samples, and collecting scales for age and growth studies. Data was collected on over 10,000 individual yellowtails throughout the duration of the 16-day survey and will be analyzed to determine species abundance and distribution. Onboard observers also collected detailed data on winter flounder, another groundfish species vital to the Southern New England commercial fishing industry. All fish and shellfish species caught were identified and recorded from every area the vessels towed.

For the first time since the Nantucket Lightship area was closed to protect concentrations of juvenile yellowtail flounder in 1994, intensive sampling was conducted within the area to determine the abundance and size structures of yellowtails. The spring 2003 survey showed that the largest concentrations of yellowtails were found within the Nantucket Lightship Closed Area, south and southeast of Block Island, and south of Shinnecock Inlet, Long Island, while some other areas had very few yellowtails.

"The fishing industry was intensely involved in designing this survey and getting it off the ground," said project leader April Valliere, of DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife. "Numerous vessel captains from New Bedford to Cape May supplied tow information based upon their historical observations, while gear manufacturers raced to complete net construction to meet the deadline for the spring survey.

"Fred Mattera, a CRPI member and captain of the Travis & Natalie, provided oversight on collection of tows and hangs, procuring insurance, electronic needs and overseeing protocol," Valliere continued. "The captains and crews of the Heather Lynn and the Mary Elena were outstanding in their onboard activities, eagerly switching from a directed fishing mode to scientific sampling platforms.

"While we encountered a few snags in the initial survey," Valerie added, "overall the data collected is remarkable and we look forward to continued collaborative research with the goal of collecting better data for the benefit of the resource, the industry and fisheries managers and scientists."

A map and table of tow locations for the fall survey can be found on DEM's website, www.state.ri.us/dem by clicking on "Fish and Wildlife" under "Programs" and then clicking on "Marine Fisheries". Although the survey is expected to start the first week of October and take approximately three weeks, weather, unexpected breakdowns or other unforeseen events may alter the length of the survey. Vessel captains Steve Follett or Kevin Jones will captain the Heather Lynn, while Scott Westcott will captain the Mary Elena. They can be contacted via VHF radio, channel 16. For further information, contact Valliere at 401-423-1939 or email avallier@dem.state.ri.us.

The Southern New England industry-based yellowtail survey is currently funded for two years, with additional funding anticipated to keep a long-term monitoring program in place. Scientists and fisheries managers will scrutinize information collected during the survey to refine existing closed area boundaries or to recommend new management measures for this species.

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