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

, except the color blue indicated poor zones for butterfish to live and orange marked areas with prime butterfish conditions.

The scientists then beamed their daily butterfish forecast map by satellite phone to fisherman Chris Roebuck and NMFS's Manderson aboard a squid boat near the edge of the continental shelf. The information was received through an underwater robot glider, a remote-controlled device that looks like a missile and normally darts through the ocean to sample water conditions.

The team strapped the glider to the top of the boat to both transmit information and track the boat's location every hour, which was preferable to the ship's satellite phone since it already had a communication protocol in place.

The fishermen used the map to sample areas where scientists predicted butterfish would and would not be to check if they were right. They sent catch data back to the team onshore through the glider.

Results showed that sometimes the model was slightly off, while the fisherman's guesses were correct. Other times, the model suggested successful spots the fishermen would not have otherwise tried. Overall, the model pointed the boat in the right direction to find butterfish based on features of the ocean's surface.

"It went really, really well," Oliver said. "It was a successful experiment in all respects."

Next, the researchers will analyze where and why the model was incorrect in some cases and how to improve predictions. The model may help define what preferred butterfish habitat is, Oliver said, and possibly shed light on why butterfish and squid seem to prefer similar habitats.

The hope is to give fishermen another tool beyond sonar and past experience in deciding where to trawl. The fishermen's initial feedback on the habitat model was that they could use it in a way similar to a weather forecast, providing general guidance on when and where to drop their nets.

The fishermen's i
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Contact: Andrea Boyle
aboyle@udel.edu
302-831-1421
University of Delaware
Source:Eurekalert  

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University scientists aiding fishermen in butterfish conundrum
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