Scientists at the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER), based at the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University, will get a new view of the ecology of Atlantic halibut from the Gulf of St. Lawrence over a full year cycle.
Testing the signal from Signal Hill. Trial runs on dry land ensure data transmission efficiency from one of twenty pop-up satellite tags prior to its deployment on a mature halibut in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
This initiative, led by research scientists Dr. Dominique Robert and Dr. Jonathan Fisher and funded by the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, involves the deployment of pop-up satellite tags attached to the halibut that will record the temperature, depth and geographical position of mature fish at 15 minute intervals.
Tags will be deployed in early October off Port aux Choix with the help of fish harvester Lloyd Gaslard in collaboration with the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) and the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
The tags are programmed to detach from the fish after predetermined periods ranging from 3 months to a full year and will then float to the surface and transmit their data directly to scientists through the international Argos satellite network.
“This study is making use of state-of-the-art technologies to describe for the first time the migration patterns, habitat use, and reproductive behavior of Atlantic halibut in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Despite the fact that halibut is the most valuable groundfish species per pound in Newfoundland and Labrador waters, little is known about its biology and ecology,” said Dr. Robert.
Results from the project will be used to quantify habitat use and develop sound survey methods that will yield reliable estimates of exploitable biomass for the stock.
“This project is a first step for addressing the concerns of harvesters who are convinced that the stock is currently under-exploited,” explained Dr. Robert.
While the current quota was set using a precautionary approach, the lack of adequate biological data on which to base the quota may result in unexploited biomass that could potentially generate greater landings annually.
“Pop-up satellite tags provide us with the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the growth and profitability of one of the most important fisheries resource for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” said Dr. Robert.
A reward of $500 will be given for any tag returned to CFER scientists.
CFER is an academic unit that receives funding from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Research and Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador