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Several Awarded Fisheries Resource Grants

02 August 2012

US - The North Carolina Fishery Resource Grant Program recently noted six new project awards for 2012. North Carolina Sea Grant administers the FRG Program funded by the North Carolina General Assembly.

The programme often pairs members of the fishing community with researchers and graduate students to combine local knowledge with scientific data-gathering methods. FRG grant panels determine priorities based on public input.

The 2012 awards include several studies that will provide data for fisheries management, a value-added technology for seafood, and a method to improve land-based aquaculture.

Capt. Dale Britt of Morehead City and Jeff Buckel of North Carolina State University will study discard mortality of dolphin fish, also known as mahi-mahi. Previous studies indicated that length limits fail to produce sustainable fish populations if discard mortality rates exceed 20 per cent. Britt and Buckel plan to catch dolphin fish by hook and line. Fish below the legal-size limit will be unhooked and transferred to a tank for observation. This project addresses a 2012 FRG priority to determine hook-and-release mortality for important recreational species.

Capt. Aaron Kelley from Kill Devil Hills and Roger Rulifson of East Carolina University plan a study that could have major implications for the management of the Atlantic migratory stock of striped bass. The team will use ear-bone chemistry to assess whether the fish from the Croatan and Roanoke sounds, Oregon Inlet and near-shore coastal environments likely came from resident or ocean-going mothers. Previous studies indicated that a small amount of offshore migration occurs. However, these studies occurred when the stock was altered due to low abundance.

Capt. Tom Roller of Beaufort, Rulifson of ECU and Philip Kemp of Carteret Community College will assess the diet of spiny dogfish. Spiny dogfish consume Atlantic menhaden in high numbers. The researchers will determine digestion rates of captive dogfish to allow for an accurate estimate of their daily ration. The data will be useful in stock assessments of other fish species by allowing an estimation of mortality due to spiny dogfish predation.

Capt. Jeff Wolfe of Wilmington, Amanda Southwood Williard of the University of North Carolina Wilmington and Wendy Cluse with the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores will look at the distribution of diamondback terrapins in Bogue Sound. The team will assess the impacts of bycatch-reduction devices on terrapin and crab catches. A recent report by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission recommends re-classifying the diamondback terrapin from a "species of concern" to "threatened." Additional monitoring will help establish the terrapin's conservation status.

Willy Phillips of Columbia will test the feasibility of smoked soft-shell crab as an additional market for North Carolina's blue crab. He will collaborate with Barry Nash, seafood technologist and marketing specialist for North Carolina Sea Grant. Recently the demand and price for North Carolina soft-shelled crabs have been weak because major wholesalers are utilizing cheaper imported products. Optimization of flavor, storage and shipping will be conducted using consumer taste tests. A successful product would significantly enhance the current value of soft-shell crabs.

Robert Farnell of Hubert and Wade Watanabe of UNCW will optimize the treatment of waste discharge from land-based recirculating aquaculture systems. Presently the effluent from such systems requires significant treatment. The team will assess the salt marsh plant, Salicornia, for bioremediation of the waste. Some species of Salicornia produce seeds with levels of protein and oil similar to soybean. In the future, Salicornia may be useful for animal feed and biofuels.

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