Bradfield Elizabeth C.

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Elizabeth C.

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  • Technical Report
    Gulf of Maine seals - fisheries interactions and integrated research : final report
    (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 2011-10) Nichols, Owen C. ; Bogomolni, Andrea L. ; Bradfield, Elizabeth C. ; Early, Greg A. ; Sette, Lisa ; Wood, Stephanie
    The 2011 meeting, “Gulf of Maine Seals: Fisheries Interactions and Integrated Research”, held at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS), featured posters and oral presentations as well as a series of discussion groups. This meeting was a follow up to the 2009 meeting, “Gulf of Maine Seals - Populations, Problems and Priorities”, held at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) (Bogomolni et al. 2010). At the conclusion of the 2009 meeting, attendees emphasized the need to improve communication, to obtain funding for long term research, to continue meeting on a regular basis, to increase data and data sharing, and to support cross cutting research between the meeting’s three primary topic areas: disease and health; human and fishery interactions; and population biology. The overarching goals of the 2011 meeting were to discuss and share work to date, present some of the tools developed since the 2009 meeting, and outline goals for future integrated research. One of the tools presented within the framework of cross-cutting research areas and integrative research was the development of a sightings database and website for uniquely identifiable (unique pelage, scars, lesions, tagged, branded, marked, etc.) animals. The practicality of this tool as a means to increase communication was discussed. Additionally, seal/fisheries interactions throughout the Gulf of Maine, Cape Cod and waters off of the northeast U.S. have continued to concern stakeholders since the 2009 meeting. The urgency of documenting, understanding and mitigating these interactions has become more apparent. Therefore, the focus of the 2011 Provincetown meeting was on fisheries interaction and related topics raised at the last 2009 workshop and in the meetings with Cape Cod fishermen described below. For the purposes of this report, 'fisheries interaction' can be direct/operational (e.g. depredation, when seals remove fish from gear; or entanglement/bycatch, when seals are unintentionally captured), or indirect/ecological (competition, displacement or other large-scale interactions between seals and fisheries). Stakeholder concerns about fisheries interactions and recent increases in local seal abundance were rising prior to the 2009 meeting. In December of 2006, the Chatham-based Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association (CCCHFA) took the lead in organizing a meeting entitled, “Structuring a Novel Research Team to Define and Assess the Impact of Human/Seal Interactions on Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine through Ecosystem-Based Analysis”. Participants included fishermen, policy makers, environmental organizations and researchers aiming to develop a unique partnership to study the New England seal population. The goal of this meeting was to create a research team that would define the ecological role of seals in Cape Cod waters by studying population dynamics, behavior, and health. This meeting resulted in a successful partnership, financially aided by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), between fishermen and seal researchers. A cost-effective cooperative research agreement was reached whereby seal researchers were provided boat transport around the Chatham and Monomoy areas by local fishermen. This agreement allowed students and researchers to gain access to areas off of Chatham that would otherwise not have been accessible. It also supported a collaborative effort to increase understanding and communication between stakeholders. In addition to the CCCHFA-led meeting in 2006, a series of informal meetings have been held on Cape Cod between commercial and recreational fishermen and marine scientists. This work was initially funded by the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank Charitable Foundation. Owen Nichols and Lisa Sette (PCCS) have held individual meetings with commercial fishermen in Chatham, Orleans, and Provincetown, and recreational fishermen, outfitters, and associations throughout the Outer Cape. These individual meetings were followed by larger group meetings in Eastham and Chatham in 2010 and 2011, and more are planned for 2012. Attendees included commercial and recreational fishermen and scientists, and discussion topics included observed seal/fishery interactions and potential collaborative research projects. The goal of the meetings is to develop a working group composed of members of the fishing and scientific communities with expertise in marine mammal and fisheries ecology. The above meetings laid the foundation for the 2011 meeting, during which members of the scientific and fishing communities gathered to focus on fisheries interactions and integrated research techniques to quantify and mitigate interactions. Several invited presentations were given, some of which were scheduled (Appendix A) with selected abstracts provided (Appendix B), and some of which were delivered on an ad hoc basis upon request from organizers or attendees (see Appendix F for edited transcripts of presentations). In order to ensure that the fishing community had a distinct voice, a forum was included in the agenda, during which fishermen were encouraged to share their observations, experiences and concerns. Separately, moderated discussion groups focused specifically on fisheries interactions, tagging and tracking, and management issues. All four sessions, despite their specific foci, shared common themes such as the need for collaborative research involving both the scientific and fishing communities. Recommendations from the discussion groups and summaries from each session are listed on the following pages.