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University scientists aiding fishermen in butterfish conundrum
Date:1/6/2012

Butterfish may sound delicious, but local fishermen would rather keep them out of their nets. The small, silvery fish are protected by fishing limits yet frequently surface in tows when fishermen are trawling for squid. Too much of this unintended butterfish "bycatch" can get a fishery shut down by regulators for the year before the squid allocation is caught.

The University of Delaware's Matthew Oliver, assistant professor of oceanography in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), is helping to address the problem. Combining satellite data with radar information on ocean currents, he and others are developing a model to predict where butterfish populations are most likely to be on any given day. Their habitat model could assist fishermen in avoiding butterfish while fishing for squid.

The study is a collaborative effort with Greg DiDomenico of the Garden State Seafood Association, John Manderson of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and Josh Kohut and Laura Palamara of Rutgers University.

The researchers recently tested the accuracy of their predictions with an eight-day field experiment, sending daily reports to a fishing vessel roughly 200 miles offshore.

"We were taking real-time observations from satellites and high-frequency radar and sending it to fishermen to guide their fishing efforts," Oliver said. "I think it may have been the first time anything has been done like that."

Each afternoon Oliver provided NASA satellite data collected by CEOE's satellite receiving station to colleagues at Rutgers University, including ocean temperature and color indicating where water conditions change quickly. They combined it with updates on ocean currents and understanding of butterfish behavior; for example, the fish are more likely to be at the ocean's bottom during the daytime.

Then they used the data to create color overlays on Google Earth maps that looked similar to weather maps
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Contact: Andrea Boyle
aboyle@udel.edu
302-831-1421
University of Delaware
Source:Eurekalert  

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