UMass awarded patent with implications for fish monitoring

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Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth last month were awarded a patent for technology they say could reduce the costs of fishing vessel monitoring, a cost fisherman say threatens their livelihood, the school announced this week.

Dr. Brian Rothschild, the retired founding head of the UMass-Dartmouth School of Marine Science and Technology, and graduate student Glenn Chamberlain said their on-board 3D camera system would reduce costs, ensure accuracy and expand the scope of what information could be collected.

“Broad-based and accurate counting of the fish being caught is critical to our collective efforts to sustain critical fish stocks and thus the commercial fishing industry,” Rothschild said in a statement. “We believe we have found a way to count the fish being caught in a relatively low-cost manner that will increase confidence among the federal regulators and the fishing industry.”

The camera system, which would cost about $500 to install on a vessel, utilizes stereo photogrammetry, a system used by meteorologists to collect information about tornadoes, to capture images of fish either on the deck or passing through a net, according to the university. Those images could then be analyzed to produce “a permanent record of each sampling tow or catch in the fishery and to determine the species and size composition of each tow,” the university said.

Late last year, regional fishing interests filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of a mandate requiring them to carry at-sea monitors on their vessels and pay the cost of hosting those federal enforcement contractors. The Northeast groundfish fleet included 735 active vessels and employed 2,039 crew members for the 2013 fishing year, according to the lawsuit, part of a larger seafood sector that supports an estimated 300,000 jobs along the East Coast.

UMass-Dartmouth is currently “exploring avenues to develop the invention for use in the commercial fishing industry,” the university said.

— Written by Colin A. Young 

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