Atlantic Wolffish Aggregations On Stellwagen Bank, Massachusetts Bay

Thursday, September 12, 2013: 2:40 PM
Pope (Statehouse Convention Center)
Elizabeth A. Fairchild , Biological Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
Shelly Tallack , Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Portland, ME
Michael P. Armstrong , Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Gloucester, MA
Scott Elzey , Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Gloucester, MA
Full life history information (biology, migration patterns, seasonal movements) is lacking for Atlantic wolffish, a Species of Concern in US waters. Groundfish surveys indicate abundance is highest in the Gulf of Maine-Georges Bank region, especially in the southwestern portion at depths of 80-120 m, but these numbers are < 1.5kg/tow. Contrary to these data, commercial fishermen reported and we validated that dense aggregations of Atlantic wolffish are found in very specific locations and times on Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts Bay. From 53 tows during May-June 2011, a total of 395 Atlantic wolffish were captured. Average daily CPUE ranged from 0.4 to 19.0 wolffish/30 min tow, depending on date and location. The wolffish were not evenly distributed and were most abundant in late May (compared to the June trips) in 28-40 m water. The first 303 fish caught were sacrificed for life history analyses; the remainder was tagged and released. Biological analyses revealed that this wolffish population was mature (mean age: 21 yrs; range: 7-33 yrs), both sexes equally represented, not in spawning condition, and all fish were actively feeding. An opportunistic, voluntary tag and release program continues to date to document the movements of this wolffish population.