THIS FISH

HARVESTING PROFILE

Redfish by Bottom Trawl

Scotian Shelf / Bay of Fundy

Fish harvesters drag a large cone-shaped net along the seafloor to catch redfish along with other species such as pollock, haddock, cod and flounder, among others. The net is sunk and held open by two “otter boards” that look like large, heavy steel or wooden doors. As the net is towed at low speed, currents push the boards outwards opening the mouth of the net and capturing fish in its path. The net is then hauled to the surface using hydraulic winches and a drum. A single tow can net thousands of redfish along with incidental catch. Redfish is also caught when trawlers target other fish species.

Bottom Trawl
HARVESTING METHOD

Bottom Trawl

Also known as “dragging,” bottom trawling uses a large net made of polyethylene to catch fish. Steel or wooden doors spread the net open. Floats are attached to the upper mouth of the net to keep it open vertically and weighted “bobbins” are attached to the lower mouth to sink the net. The bobbins’ design depends on the terrain, varying from small rubber discs for smooth sandy seafloors to large metal balls for rough ground. Known as “rock hoppers,” bobbins lift the net over obstacles on the seafloor.

Bottom Trawl

In Atlantic Canada, many different groundfish species are incidentally caught in bottom trawls. These include halibut, haddock, cod, hake, redfish and pollock, among others. Each year, about 60 to 70 trawlers under 65 feet (20 metres) actively participate in the groundfish fishery. In total, 305 trawlers under 65 feet are licensed to catch groundfish.

Conservation Measures

Bottom trawls cause habitat damage when dragged along the seabed and undersized and unwanted species (bycatch) are also incidentally caught.

The groundfish trawl fishery is managed through individual transferable quotas for vessels under 65 feet (20 metres). A number of measures address conservation in this fishery, including:

  • strict annual catch limits;
  • a limitation on the number and size of licensed fishing vessels;
  • restrictions on mesh sizes for nets;
  • the use of a separator panel on Georges Bank to reduce the number of cod caught while fishing for haddock;
  • restrictions on landing small fish;
  • a vessel monitoring system that tracks vessels at sea;
  • individual quotas for each fishing vessel;
  • requirements to register with authorities which species and area to be fished before leaving the dock;
  • dockside monitoring of catch unloading by an independent third party; and
  • requirements for a log identifying any species at risk that fishermen come into contact with during a trip.
Quality and Handling

Fish caught by bottom trawling are hauled aboard in a large net and stored in a mixture of ice and seawater or slush. Fishing vessels can stay at sea for more than a week. Properly handled and chilled on ice, fresh groundfish has a shelf life of 9 to 15 days.

Harvesting Area

The Scotian Shelf and Bay of Fundy fishing area is located off the eastern shores of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, running from the northern tip of Cape Breton to the United States-New Brunswick border. The area encompasses the Bay of Fundy, Gulf of Maine, Fundian Channel, Browns Bank, Rosemary Bank, Baccaro Bank, Le Havre Bank and Le Havre Basin. It also includes part of Georges Bank, an oval-shaped, relatively shallow bank, that lies at the southwestern end of a chain of banks stretching from Newfoundland.

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