Holistic evaluation of management policies: What are the consequences of modified gear use on Georges Bank?
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Georges Bank haddock is a recently recovered fish stock in the New England groundfish fishery. Due to federal constraints under the Magnuson-Steven Act, however, this stock cannot be optimally exploited due to the bycatch of other critical species in the New England groundfishery such as cod and yellowtail flounder which are overfished. The Ruhle trawl and Separator trawl are examples of recent advances in gear technology that have been shown to significantly increase haddock to bycatch ratios. This study models the groundfish fishery through a mixed stock yield model which incorporates technological interactions. We also develop a socio-economic model that quantifies the amount of employment and producer surplus associated with three trawl types. Our results explore policy situations regarding the use of the new trawls. By bridging the biological and socio-economic models, we are able to view the fishery as a system that more accurately represents stakeholder views. Our model shows that each trawl, when used exclusively, produces different optimum strategies and therefore an optimum management strategy would most likely include a combination of trawl types. Our results also support the logic of using modified trawls for haddock fishing trips in which bycatch is strictly regulated as the Ruhle trawl is able to maintain 80% of catches caught by a conventional trawl while reducing bycatch up to over 60%. This paper is a first step towards an aid for policy makers to examine fishery gear trade-offs and the resulting biological and socio-economic consequences of different management actions within the constraints of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.