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Groundbreaking video technology to improve stock surveys

14 May 2013
Groundbreaking video technology to improve stock surveys

Image of the modified net and video camera taken aboard F/V Justice prior to the survey's departure. Photo courtesy of SMAST

A new method of using video data collection to improve groundfish and flat fish stock surveys has been developed, which is showing promise to improve accuracy by increasing spatial coverage and to allow the conducting of surveys without fish mortality.

Dr Kevin Stokesbury, whose work in developing the SMAST Scallop Video Survey was essential to transforming scallop surveys in the 1990s, has collaborated with colleagues from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST), the fishing industry, NOAA Fisheries, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and SIMRAD on this project.

The video technology was recently tested on Atlantic yellowtail flounder and showed potential to greatly increase data collection compared to conventional methods. The method uses a modified net that, instead of catching fish, funnels them through an opening while video is shot by an attached underwater digital camera. This enables continuous and thorough sampling for longer periods of time than a traditional collection survey. 

Increasing data quantity lowers the margin of error and improves confidence in the assessment. Also, because the video survey greatly decreases fish mortality, it is particularly advantageous for surveying species with low allocations, like cod. 

The survey has been supported by members of the groundfish and scallop industries, who provided equipment, funding, and time for the yellowtail survey. NOAA also cooperated by issuing the necessary permits and providing a scientist with similar technological experience to help conduct the survey. SIMRAD provided two technicians and the video camera system. 

A recent presentation of the preliminary survey results was met with a positive response, and the group expressed enthusiasm for the continued development of this technology.

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Image of the modified net and video camera taken aboard  F/V Justice prior to the survey's departure. Photo courtesy of SMAST

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