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Ongoing Research

The following is a listing of on-going research projects that the Foundation has undertaken.  Copies of Final Reports of completed projects are available for all projects  that have been completed.  We will happily provide copies of any reports that are noted as "Final Report Available". Visit the completed research page for more information.

“Prediction and Verification of Snapper-Grouper Spawning Aggregation Sites on the Offshore Banks of the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico” - NA14NMF4270039, GSAFFI #129

This project aims to predict and verify multi-species spawning aggregations in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. In turn, this will allow consolidation of existing methods and further development of robust fishery dependent and independent data collection methods, designed to evaluate the status of all of the stocks that use multi-species spawning aggregation sites. This will be the first attempt to predict and verify spawning aggregations on the banks of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Though they are very likely to exist, no spawning aggregations in this area have been documented. At a minimum, the project will compile and analyze fishery dependent and fishery independent data, expert fisher knowledge, and geomorphological predictions of likely spawning aggregation sites that can be used within this and other subsequent studies. Six sampling cruises have been made to date. Sampling methods include underwater video observation, site mapping, fishery dependent survey, and otolith and reproductive sample collection. Potential courtship behavior of multiple species including spadefish, jacks, sheepshead, scamp, and cubera snapper were documented in various locations throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

“Examination of Catch and Discards within the Commercial Snapper-Grouper Vertical Hook-and-Line Sector in the South Atlantic United States” - NA14NMF4270040, GSAFFI #130

Many species within the snapper-grouper fishery management unit are data poor.  As a result, many of the species specific stock assessments have a high level of uncertainty associated with the models, including catch characterization, effort, and quantity of discards. This project reinitiates a fishery observer program within the vertical hook-and-line (bandit rig) sector of the snapper-grouper fishery of the South Atlantic United States to enhance the universe of data that are available to stock assessment scientists. The project will build upon the robust database that includes five years worth of data collected through past federally funded awards.

Through cooperation of Foundation Coordinators and Industry Cooperators, we have solicited the participation of the commercial fishing industry to voluntarily assist in the performance of this project. A GSAFF contracted observer has been placed onboard cooperating vessels to collect a variety of data quantifying the participation, gear, effort, catch, and discards within the fishery. The intent of this project is not to form a standalone dataset, but to augment currently available datasets. With the information derived from this project, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries can better assess the impact of current effort and discards on the data-poor snapper-grouper fishery. The Foundation appreciates the continued cooperation of Industry. This partnership has allowed for the construction of a database that currently includes over 40,000 sampled fish.

To date, Observers have made 24 trips totaling 137 at-sea days of data collection out of ports from North Carolina to northeast Florida. If you are a participant in the South Atlantic snapper-grouper fishery and would like to participate in our program, please reach out to the Foundation.

“Shrimp Fishery Turtle Excluder Device/Bycatch Reduction Device Compliance Outreach Workshops for the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Office” - WC-133F-14-SE-3800, GSAFFI #132

This program, funded through a contract with NOAA/NMFS, assists with gear compliance and provides new turtle excluder device (TED) and bycatch reduction device (BRD) information to members of the shrimp fishing industry throughout the Southeast region (North Carolina to Texas). The Foundation is responsible for relaying management outcomes and providing educational outreach services to the industry affected by TED/BRD regulations. The Foundation, through its staff and Regional Coordinators (Gary Graham and Captain Lindsey Parker—below), serves as a liaison between the NMFS Southeast Regional Office, Protected Resources Division, and the commercial shrimp fishing industry. This program will provide industry with clear and definitive information regarding TED and BRD regulations.

Outreach efforts are on-going. A strong push (over 60 vessels were given courtesy inspections) was made prior to the Texas shrimp opening (July) to ensure vessels were fully up to speed on TED regulations. Coordinators utilize the standardized NMFS TED inspection form while conducting courtesy inspections. This assists industry in understanding the inspection process should a vessel be boarded and provides additional educational information for industry to check their gear to ensure compliance. These activities have built upon the work conducted in our previous and current gear outreach projects. Industry and NMFS have responded positively  to the outreach efforts.

“Pilot Study for Developing Fisheries-Independent Indices of Abundance for Juvenile Red Snapper in the U.S. South Atlantic” - NA14NMF4330221, FWC Contract #14342, GSAFFI #133A

This project constitutes a pilot study to evaluate the utility of trawls and small fish traps in providing fisheries-independent data for juvenile (age 0-1) red snapper and other managed fishes in the U.S. South Atlantic. Surveys have been conducted using a 12.8-m semi-balloon trawl (below left) and Antillean Z-traps  (below right) within nearshore waters (10 – 70 m) off central and northeast Florida during late summer/early fall (July – October). Trawl surveys targeted low-relief soft-bottom/shell habitats which are underrepresented in current fisheries-independent surveys in the SA despite having been documented as red snapper nursery habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. Small-mesh fish traps will target low- to high-relief hard bottom and artificial reef habitats not accessible by trawls to investigate whether SA juvenile red snapper are exploiting different habitats from what has been documented in the Gulf. Data from this three-year pilot study will be used to develop recommendations (i.e., sampling gear, sampling design, sampling effort) for a fisheries-independent monitoring survey designed to provide valuable data that can be used in creating indices of abundance and provide missing demographic data on age 0-1 red snapper and other federally-managed species that would complement current monitoring efforts in the SA. The project was funded to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and is currently being run out of the Jacksonville, FL laboratory. The Foundation was contracted to assist with providing cooperative industry participation. Five trawl sampling cruises and 13 trap sampling cruises have been completed to date. Both sampling methods have been successful at collecting juvenile red snapper. 

“Cooperative Bottom Long-line Survey to Augment Fisheries Independent Reef Fish Data Collection in the Deepwater Snapper-Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic United States” - NA15NMF4270342, GSAFFI #134

The goal of this project is to prove the utility of an industry led deep-water fisheries independent bottom long-line (BLL) survey for the South Atlantic conducted in close collaboration with the existing fishery independent efforts by the MARMAP (and related) program(s). Bottom long-line sampling will be conducted off the coast of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Golden and blueline tilefish will be the target species for this program. The data will be collected by observers during the course of this project and will augment the work conducted by MARMAP. By collaborating with the MARMAP group, independent fisheries data can be collected over a greater spatial range while being cost effective. In the course of this project, continuation of the collaborative monitoring efforts will be discussed and a plan will be designed for continuation and possible expansion of efforts such as inclusion of additional gears and depth zones. This project will provide immediate information for managers while providing the methodology and template for a long-term BLL survey program for the future. A conference call was held with Foundation staff and collaborators, SC-DNR MARMAP and NMFS SEFSC, to discuss the scheduling of sampling. A planning meeting with all program participants, including industry cooperators, will be held to organize the sampling efforts.