Connor Capizzano, Summer 2015
Despite my transition between graduate programs, my summer has been quite eventful with various research opportunities. In hopes of providing accurate data necessary for fish stock assessments and fishery management plans, I have extended my Master’s degree research in evaluating the mortality associated with capture and releasing undesirable fish (i.e. discard mortality). More specifically, I use acoustic telemetry to assess fish discard mortality for those individuals captured in recreational rod-and-reel fisheries within the Gulf of Maine. With assistance from my previous collaborators, for instance, I have aided with estimating Atlantic haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) discard mortality, especially in light of the recent zero possession limit on recreationally caught Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). My collaborators and I are also preliminarily observing barotrauma injuries in cusk (Brosme brosme), which will assist our future discard mortality study on this species using more advanced acoustic telemetry methods. Along with monitoring recreational fisheries, I have used my skills to observe discard mortality occurring within commercially important fisheries. UMass Boston doctoral student Ryan Knotek and I have specifically investigated the discard mortality of winter skates (Leucoraja ocellata) and juvenile sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) captured via commercial gillnet and scallop dredges, respectively. We also hope to identify which aspects of capture have the greatest influence on mortality through these projects in order to produce “best practice” recommendations that will reduce such needless mortality.
Since the number of recreational discards is increasing in response to more strict regulatory controls and increased conservation ethics among anglers, I have spent my summer analyzing and reporting these data to federal and state organizations for use in upcoming stock assessments. For example, while my Master’s thesis on recreational cod discard mortality was submitted for peer-review publication this summer, the estimated mortality values and “best practice” recommendations were already incorporated for the 2015 fishing year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office. At the 2015 National Marine Educators Association in Newport, RI, I co-presented my Master’s thesis project with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries’ Elaine Brewer and explained how our unique outreach campaign was designed to inform different target audiences of our findings (e.g. scientists, angling community). In addition, previous collaborators and I further promoted the recent cod discard mortality project by assisting William Goldsmith, On The Water magazine writer and Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences graduate student, with his most recent article for the regional magazine. Aside from my research intensive schedule, I frequently discuss and plan my upcoming doctoral dissertation chapters with New England Aquarium and UMass Boston’s Dr. John Mandelman, primary adviser to both Ryan Knotek and I. With the remaining weeks of August, I am peer-reviewing a manuscript submitted to editors of the American Fisheries Society’s internationally recognized journal titled Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science. Let’s hope the upcoming school year with UMass Boston’s IGERT Coasts and Communities fellowship is as productive and fast-paced as this past summer!