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Pot caught

MI researcher focused on improving fishery — one cod pot at a time

special feature: Environment

Part of a special series showcasing faculty, staff and students’ commitment to placing the environment at the forefront of  research, public engagement and teaching and learning activities at Memorial.

By Leslie Earle

With cod stocks on the rise, finding a sustainable way to harvest the fish has never been more important.

For decades trawls and gill nets have been the tools of the trade, but a researcher at the Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) believes there’s proof in the cod pot.

Capturing cod

Phillip Meintzer is a graduate student at MI’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources (CSAR). His research is focused on changing the way cod fish are captured in this province — one cod pot at a time.

Phillip Meintzer
Phillip Meintzer
Photo: Chris Hammond

“My goal is to improve the catch efficiency of cod pots and encourage fish harvesters in the province to adopt the pots as their primary harvesting strategy,” he said.

“If an effective cod-potting strategy can be created, its implementation may become the industry standard and set an example for widespread sustainable Atlantic cod exploitation beyond the waters of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Atlantic cod-focused

Baited cod pots are not new to the fishing industry and are effective in many parts of the world. But for Mr. Meintzer and the team at CSAR, the focus is on creating a cod pot that works for Atlantic cod.

“I’m focused on comparing two different styles of cod pots: Norwegian-style and Newfoundland and Labrador-style, which was initially developed by Phil Walsh at MI,” said Mr. Meintzer.

“The goal is to create the most effective pot for Atlantic cod fish — examining factors such as how fish behave in the vicinity of pots, and how pots actually interact with the ocean floor ecosystems off our coast.”

1/ Captured cod

Cod fish that have been captured using a pot.

Photo: Submitted

2/ Unloading

A cod pot is brought on board the vessel for unloading.

Photo: Submitted

3/ Full catch

A full cod pot is brought to the ocean surface.

Photo: Submitted

4/ Pot overboard

The team guides a cod pot overboard.

Photo: Submitted

5/ Cod pot at work

One of the cod pots being used in Phillip Meintzer's research.

Photo: Submitted

6/ In the field

Phillip Meintzer out on the water.

Photo: Submitted

As part of his research, Mr. Meintzer attaches underwater cameras to the pots to observe how fish enter them and what other species get trapped inside. The findings will then inform better pot design for the province’s cod fishery.

Environmental impacts

Cod pots are stationary, low-impact fishing gear and are currently used to fish Atlantic cod commercially in Sweden and Norway. Mr. Meintzer says the cod pots being used off this province’s coast are similar to those used in the lobster and crab industries.

“The pots sit on the ocean floor and bait is used to attract the fish. They are equipped with retention devices to prevent the fish from escaping once inside.”

While trapped inside, the fish stay alive in the pot, as does anything else that makes its way inside. The pots are designed to prevent unwanted species from entering. This makes it it easier to return any unwanted creatures back into the ocean alive, reducing bycatch.

“However, anything that is captured, such as crab, can be returned to the ocean alive which is really important in helping to protect our marine ecosystem,” said Mr. Meintzer.

In addition, since the pots are stationary, they require less fuel than mobile fishing gears, which results in fewer carbon emissions.

Fresh fish

Cod pots are also beneficial to the economy: fish quality is much improved since they are brought to the surface alive and without deterioration from meshing and predation, as is the case with gill nets.

“For fish harvesters, the cod pots take less time to haul and result in a higher quality fish that gets better prices,” said Mr. Meintzer. “For consumers and restaurants, this increases the availability of superior quality, sustainably caught fish.”

“For fish harvesters, the cod pots take less time to haul and result in a higher quality fish that gets better prices.” — Phillip Meintzer

Mr. Meintzer feels that cod pots will be an important part of sustainable marine ecosystems in Newfoundland and Labrador going forward, as well.

“This project is allowing me to work one-on-one with local harvesters to try and improve their livelihoods while at the same time reducing the impact of the fishing industry on the environment.

“So far, we’re seeing great results and fish harvesters we’ve worked with continue to be impressed with this new gear and the outcomes they’re seeing.”

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