James Sulikowski receives NOAA grant to study mortality rate of cod captured in lobster traps

Atlantic Cod caught in a lobster trap

September 06, 2017

Professor James Sulikowski, Ph.D., of the University of New England’s Department of Marine Sciences and Center for Excellence in the Marine Sciences has been awarded a grant to continue studying the mortality rate of Atlantic Cod that are accidentally captured in lobster traps.

The grant, which comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program (BREP), will help to identify the best commercial capture-and-handling methods to increase the survival of Atlantic cod discarded after being captured by lobster gear.

Although designed to land a single species, the configuration of lobster traps still yields incidental catch, including groundfish. These units are constructed of plastic coated wire that typically have two funneled openings called “heads” where lobsters enter to feed on the bait. The traps can also capture an organism like cod that is capable of fitting through the trap. This incidental catch may ultimately be contributing to the decline in Atlantic cod, but there is little concrete data to support that theory.

In 2016, Sulikowski began to evaluate the condition of Atlantic cod immediately following capture by standard lobster gear. Prior to release, acoustic transmitters with depth sensors were affixed to 30 cod, which were monitored in their natural environment by an array of 30 acoustic receivers between June and October of that year. These grant funds will allow Sulikowski and his research team to continue their fieldwork with the goal of ultimately disseminating results and best capture-and-handling methods to various stakeholder group including industry and management sources and the scientific community.

To learn more about the University of New England’s Department of Marine Sciences visit www.une.edu/cas/marine

To learn more about the University of New England’s Center for Excellence in Marine Sciences, visit www.une.edu/research/msc

To apply, visit www.une.edu/admissions

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