The Pacific cod trawl fishery presents significant challenges in the development and use of halibut excluders. While effective halibut excluders are increasingly being used in the CDQ and open access flatfish fisheries, these excluders are unfortunately not effective in the Pacific cod trawl fishery. The excluders utilize a solid grate with square apertures that, when modified to be large enough to allow cod to pass through, also allow most (if not all) of the halibut encountered in cod fishing to pass through. The halibut bycatch allowance for the Bering Sea trawl cod fishery therefore continues to constrain the cod trawl fishery.
The purpose and goals of the EFP is to develop a device for Pacific cod (cod) trawls used in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska that lowers halibut bycatch rates without significantly lowering catch rates of cod. Groundfish Forum and At-sea Processors Association for part A of the EFP and Groundfish Forum and Trident Seafoods for part B, under the guidance of Dr. Craig Rose of NMFS, will select for testing the most promising excluder design based on criteria set out in the EFP. Two vessels, a pollock/cod fillet catcher-processor and an H&G freezer-trawler will test the selected device under a rigorous, controlled, experimental design with a high probability of determining if the device excludes halibut and retains target cod successfully. The EFP will produce a report for public dissemination describing the device tested and the results of the test. Because the cod fishery is often constrained by halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, widespread adoption of the device can be expected if the device is successful.
The following are aspects of an effective excluder device that is practical to the industry.
- Release unharmed a large percentage of the halibut that come into the trawl;
- Avoid significant reductions in target catch;
- Function with limited failures or breakage and be resistant to clogging and debris jams;
- Durability and ease of storage on deck; and
- Constructed from affordable materials that are readily available .