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Local scientists' fishing forecast maps could help Atlantic sturgeon and other marine life

Delaware State University, NMFS Permit No. 16507-01

Local scientists have started developing a daily fishing forecast that could help Mid-Atlantic fishermen avoid catching the endangered Atlantic sturgeon.

In recent years, University of Delaware and Delaware State University researchers have been tracking the movements of the endangered Atlantic sturgeon and the threatened sand tiger shark in coastal waters, using robotic drones and acoustic tagging devices.

Now, they’re using that data to map out where in the ocean these two species are more likely to hang out on any given day. With Atlantic sturgeon, scientists use satellite data to pinpoint areas that contain certain colors and temperatures that the fish are drawn to.

Atlantic sturgeon like parts of the ocean that look somewhat dark, says UD researcher Matt Breece. The research appears in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

DSU is also conducting research on fishing gear modifications that can help reduce bycatch. And Breece hopes to see fishermen using a combination of these resources in the near future.  

“I think that, along with something like [these maps], where fishermen can actively change their behavior in response to a forecast map, could be very effective," said Breece.

Breece and his colleagues are aiming to launch a pilot version of this product for fishermen to use by next year. They've started spreading word of this project to local watermen, who Breece said seem to regard it as a promising tool.


“It’s a way for them to self-regulate or have the knowledge they need to keep from catching Atlantic sturgeon," he said.

The project is funded by several organizations, including NOAA and the Lenfest Ocean Program.

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