MARCH 2019 - ISSUE 10

The Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation is a non-profit, private research foundation founded and directed by members of the commercial fishing industry. The CFRF’s primary mission is to conduct collaborative research and education projects that assist in the achievement of sustainable fisheries and vibrant fishing communities.


After three exciting and productive years at the helm of CFRF, it is with both sadness and hope that I hand over the wheel to the new CFRF Director, Dr. Chris Glass. My work at CFRF has taught me that there are always solutions to the challenges facing fisheries and seafood if you bring the right group of people together. It has also  highlighted the importance of standing up for the value of the fishermen-collected data and it has revealed the dedication that industry members have to sustaining ocean ecosystems, adapting to changing markets and species availability, and seeing their industry not just survive, but thrive. I have deep respect and gratitude for the CFRF Board of Directors and staff, and our team of collaborators and I hope to continue to grow these relationships for long into the future. I trust that Dr. Glass will carry the CFRF forward with enthusiasm and I will certainly be following along from my new position as the Chief of the Cooperative Research Branch at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.              Sincerely, Anna Mercer              

Thanks to the tireless work of Anna, the CFRF has become a leader in fisheries research. Under her leadership, the CFRF diversified its approach for engaging fishermen in research, developed new partnerships within the scientific community, and produced a suite of practical results that have supported fishing communities across the region.  She is well respected throughout the fishing industry, academic community, and government organizations. The CFRF is grateful to have had her as Executive Director and we applaud her performance. CFRF Board of Directors


Over the course of this project, the CFRF completed a wide variety of education and research activities, including:

  1. Hosted the “Taste the Ocean State: Celebrate RI Seafood” event at the Boston Public Market that engaged shoppers in discussions with fishermen, seafood cooking demonstrations and tastings,

  2. Renovated the website to include ecological and fisheries information about local seafood species and a map of seafood access points in RI,

  3. Developed infographics to describe the characteristics of the RI seafood system and tips for supporting local seafood,

  4. Produced two educational videos to improve appreciation of the RI seafood system,

  5. Developed and co-hosted a workshop at Nick’s on Broadway that brought together over 50 RI food professionals, seafood businesses, and fishermen to share information and develop sourcing relationships,

  6. Developed a guide for navigating the regulations surrounding the direct sale of fish in RI,

  7. Developed a RI seafood species availability calendar, based upon historical landings during each month of the year,

  8. Developed a RI Seafood Suppliers Directory for wholesale businesses,

  9. Assisted with the production of a RI Monthly Article about seafood in RI, including species summaries and graphics, and tips for procuring local seafood,  and

  10. Provided dozens of port and seafood production tours to develop an appreciation for RI’s seafood system.

    Thank you to all of our collaborators for helping to make this project a success! Visit for photos, reports, and more! 


Project RESULTS:  Assessing the Economic Impact of Rhode Island’s Fishing Industry

This study, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Tom Sproul at the University of Rhode Island, is the first to measure the economic impact of the RI Fisheries and Seafood Sector using an approach in which businesses are hand-counted to estimate jobs, gross sales, and economic impacts across the state. The Rhode Island Fisheries and Seafood Sector spans commercial fishing and shellfishing, fishing charters, processing, professional service firms, retail and wholesale seafood dealers, service and supply firms, and tackle shops. These 428 firms generated 3,147 jobs and $538.33 million of gross sales in 2016. Including spillover effects across all sectors of the Rhode Island economy, the total economic impact was 4,381 jobs and output of $419.83 million (+/- 11.6%). This study finds that Commercial Fishing is the largest subsector by jobs and number of firms, while Wholesalers is the largest by annual gross sales. To facilitate policy discussion, this study also estimated economic impact multipliers for X-Vessel landings values. The X-vessel landings jobs multiplier is 32.43 jobs per $million. The X-vessel landings economic impact multiplier is 3.06. These multipliers are “total effects” in the Rhode Island economy, inclusive of effects on commercial fishing. Details of the data collection, subsector definitions, estimation procedure and confidence intervals can be found in the Full Report and Technical Appendix available at: .


Project Update:  Black Sea Bass Research Fleet

The  Black Sea Bass Research Fleet has been hard at work and, since September, has sampled 2,720 black sea bass from just shy of 200 individual locations across southern New England. This sampling effort brings the total number of black sea bass sampled since the beginning of the project to 13,250!  In addition to at-sea sampling, Research Fleet participants have collected hundreds of black sea bass from inshore waters for diet, growth, and maturity analysis.  In December, the Black Sea Bass Research Fleet welcomed its newest participant; the F/V Debbie Sue, a trawler homeported in Point Judith, RI, captained by Troy Sawyer. The F/V Debbie Sue will expand the sampling coverage of the Research Fleet in two important ways; geographically, further south into the mid-Atlantic, and temporally, through the winter months. Welcome to the team, Troy and crew!

The CFRF is pleased to announce that additional funding has been secured to expand the collection and laboratory analysis of black sea bass as well as to support the addition of two new vessels to the Research Fleet! Starting this spring, Research Fleet participants will collect black sea bass from data-poor areas offshore and CFRF and RI DEM staff will analyze the diet, growth, and maturity of the fish in the lab. This work builds upon the Research Fleet’s collection and analysis of black sea bass from inshore waters, which has started to show some interesting results, including a prey portfolio of over 100 species that includes Jonah and rock crabs, fish (namely sand lance), squid, shrimp, amphipods, and lobster. The CFRF is soliciting applications from Fishermen for two additional F/V slots in the Research Fleet through Friday, March 29, 2019. Stay tuned in the coming months as the CFRF will be releasing another call for applications further into the spring and summer of 2019. Upcoming announcements and application materials can be found at!


Project Update:  Quahog Research Fleet

At the end of January, the Quahog Research Fleet participants conducted their last sampling sessions and returned their sampling equipment to CFRF. Over the course of this project, Research Fleet participants sampled an astonishing 53,866 quahogs from over 1,000 locations within Narragansett Bay. The quantity and quality of the data provided by the Quahog Research Fleet is truly exceptional and shows how dedicated all participants are to the betterment of their fishery. The calibration component of this project, a collaboration with RWU and RI DEM, further highlights the efficacy of the shellfishermen, who exhibited catch efficiencies up to 99.6%. All shellfishermen were able to maintain their high catch efficiencies through various bottom types, depths, and quahog densities. In comparison, the RI DEM dredge catch efficiency varied widely depending on depth, bottom type, and quahog density, and was overall less efficient than the shellfishermen. This exemplifies the importance of incorporating industry knowledge and data into the stock assessment process. 

Not only has the Quahog Research Fleet provided an extensive quahog density and catch composition database that will improve the quahog stock assessment,  it has also produced a suite of valuable lessons regarding technology, process, and partnership. Stay tuned in the coming months when CFRF releases the final project report, which will summarize all of the work accomplished through the Quahog Research Fleet. Finally, we would like to thank all  of the shellfishermen (Bo Christensen, David Ghigliotty, Ernest Wilcox, Gerry Schey, and Jarrod Goulart) and project partners (Conor McManus, RI DEM and Dale Leavitt, RWU) who contributed to this project. The CFRF deeply values the dedication and skills of our collaborators and looks forward to refining and continuing this work in the future . If you would like to obtain a copy of the final project report, keep an eye on the project webpage at!


 Project Update:  Lobster and Jonah Crab Research Fleet

The Lobster and Jonah Crab Research Fleet continues to expand and evolve to address the data needs of these valuable resource species. In the fall, we welcomed three new fishing vessels to our Research Fleet: F/V Terri-Ann (Sandwich, MA), F/V Carol Coles (Newington, NH), and F/V Dana Conant (Newington, NH). These fishing vessels will help fill offshore data gaps listed as high priority areas for lobster by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Despite rough weather and storms this fall, the Research Fleet sampled over 11,000 lobsters and 9,700 Jonah crabs since September. This brings the total number of lobsters and Jonah crabs sampled since 2014 to over 125,516 and 64,920, respectively. This is incredibly impressive and we would like to thank all of the fishermen involved for their time and effort! 

The Research Fleet’s data continues to be widely used by lobster and Jonah crab stock assessment scientists, managers, and academics. Most recently, NH Fish and Game scientists used the Research Fleet’s data to explore offshore lobster recruitment, the ASMFC Lobster Technical Committee used the Research Fleet’s data to characterize catch and understand reproductive dynamics for the lobster stock assessment, and oceanographers from SMAST and WHOI used the Research Fleet’s bottom water temperature data to inform hydrodynamic models. The CFRF is proud that the value of the Lobster and Jonah Crab Research Fleet continues to grow.

Over the past few months, CFRF staff have shared results from the Lobster and Jonah Crab Research Fleet at a SMAST seminar, the winter meeting of the Southern New England Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, and the ASMFC Lobster Benchmark Stock Assessment Workshop. These events provide valuable opportunities to discuss the Research Fleet data directly with other scientists and identify novel applications, including characterization of length frequencies and sex ratios in areas not sampled by inshore state ventless trap surveys and exploration of recruitment trends of lobsters by depth and stock area.  For more information about this project,  please visit!

 Project Update:  Shelf Research Fleet

The Shelf Research Fleet project, conducted collaboratively with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), has gathered oceanographic data from across the continental shelf south of Rhode Island since 2014. To date, the fishermen participating in the Shelf Research Fleet have collected over 530 water column profiles using Conductivity, Temperature and Depth instruments. These data have provided scientists with insights into the dynamic nature of the ocean ecosystem in southern New England and its connection to fishery productivity. The Shelf Research Fleet data have been  particularly valuable in explaining sub-seasonal trends that are not observed by other surveys. Thank you to the fishermen involved in the Shelf Research Fleet for your time and effort!

In January 2019, a manuscript authored by CFRF’s Director, Anna Mercer, and Glen Gawarkiewicz (WHOI) titled “Partnering with Fishing Fleets to Monitor Ocean Conditions” was published in the Annual Review of Marine Science. The manuscript outlines the components of effective collaborative research, highlights four case studies from across the world, and discusses future opportunities and challenges.

In February, members of the Shelf Research Fleet met with WHOI scientists to discuss recent oceanographic conditions and to share at-sea observations. Discussions focused on the high frequency of salinity maximum intrusions during the first half of 2018 and their relationship to cross-shelf transport of nutrients, productivity, and resource species. To access the ARMS manuscript, view data summaries, or download raw data, please visit



The Southern New England Cooperative Ventless Trap Survey (SNECVTS) wrapped up a successful field season in November and CFRF/URI staff have since focused their efforts on data exploration, analysis, and writing. Catch rates, disease dynamics, and reproductive cycles from 2018 are being compared to those from 2014/15 to assess interannual and long-term trends. In total, 6,619 lobsters and 43,312 Jonah crab were sampled by the SNECVTS survey in 2018. The data suggests a decline in lobster abundance and highly variable Jonah crab abundance from 2014-2018. The data will ultimately be used to develop a baseline assessment of lobster and Jonah crab populations in the Cox’s Ledge Wind Energy Area.

Over the course of the 2018 field season, 2,736 lobsters were tagged. So far, 199 have been caught and reported, including 38 lobsters which made an 80 mile run out to the continental shelf break from Cox Ledge. One lobster even walked all the way to the Hudson River Valley, a journey of nearly 150 miles in just over two months!

The full SNECVTS team of lobstermen and scientists got together in early January to reflect on the project and discuss the results in detail. CFRF staff also presented results of the project at the American Fisheries Society Southern New England Chapter winter meeting and the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association Annual Weekend in January.  CFRF and URI staff will be finishing the final project report this spring, so keep a look out for its release later this year! To learn more, please visit


This winter, the first scup fillet trials were completed at the Pier Fish Company processing facility in New Bedford, MA. Batches of scup were run through scaling and filleting machines with changes made to blade angles, cutting depths, and guide locations. After improving the filleting process with these adjustments, yields were around 40% as a marketable product. The next steps will include trials of freeze and refresh methods with both whole and filleted scup through plate freezing, blast freezing, and individual quick freezing, followed by nutritional and shelf-life testing of the final scup product. 

Coincidentally, the CFRF has been working with our partners at Johnson and Wales University to get scup into the mouths of chefs, students, and visitors. In February, CFRF participated in a seafood sustainability workshop for culinary educators which focused on scup.  After a presentation on the benefits of utilizing local sustainable seafood from CFRF staff, JWU chefs, students, and culinary educators participated in a side by side cooking demonstration with scup and tilapia.  Everyone at the event agreed that scup looks, smells, and tastes far better!  Moving ahead this spring, this project will dig deeper into the most efficient techniques processors can use to generate a high quality scup product, which will be evaluated by culinary professionals at JWU.  Pairing that along with a scup Fishery Improvement Project, consumers will hopefully be seeing scup fillets on the market in the near future!  If you’d like to follow along with our scup processing and marketing efforts, visit


Project update: Operationalizing Real-time Telemetry Onboard Commercial Fishing Vessels


The CFRF is working with the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation and the NEFSC to install real-time  telemetry systems on F/Vs throughout the Northeast. The real-time telemetry of bottom temperature data from commercial fishing boats helps ocean circulation modelers to better understand ocean processes. Last spring, CFRF staff helped install new telemetry equipment on the F/V Excalibur, a lobster boat in Newport, RI and in the fall CFRF staff helped install new telemetry equipment on the F/V Lady Clare, a lobster/crab boat out of Point Judith, RI. To view real time bottom temperatures from fishing vessels involved, please visit:

ATTENTION FISHERMEN: We are seeking vessels that fish year round, and fish in relatively deep waters that are thermally stratified to participate in this telemetry project. If you are interested, please contact Aubrey at: or 401-515-4892..

New Project: Understanding the Ecological &  Economic Implications of Black Sea Bass Range Expansion

Northeastern Univ Logo.jpg

Over the next two years, the CFRF will be working with Dr. Jonathon Grabowski and Dr. Melissa McMahan from Northeastern University on a project that seeks to elucidate the ecological and socioeconomic consequences of the northern range expansion of black sea bass. The CFRF Black Sea Bass Research Fleet will collect samples to help scientists understand differences in the life history traits and diet of black sea bass in its native and newly expanded range. Otoliths will be used to assess age and growth rates, gonads will be analyzed to assess sex and reproductive stage, stomach content and stable isotope analysis will be used to determine diet and trophic position, and tissue samples will be used for genetic analysis to understand the population structure of black sea bass in its newly expanded range.

Recent Releases,PublicationS, AND AWARDs


  • Award: “Rhode Island Foundation 2018 Best Practices Collaboration Award”, December 2018

  • Report: “The Economic Impact of Rhode Island’s Fisheries and Seafood Sector”, December 2018

  • Report : “Selling Fish to Restaurants and the Public: A Fisher’s Guide”, December 2018

  • Report: “Comparative Analysis of State Regulation of Direct-to-Market Sales of Finfish”, February 2019

  • Press: “Confronting Climate Change, Fishermen Collect Data on Changing Oceans”, WCAI NPR, November 2018

  • Press: “CFRF Awarded for Work in Communities”, Narragansett Times, December 2018

  • RI Senate Resolution: “Expressing Appreciation and Support for all Rhode Island Fishers and the Rhode Island Commercial Fishing Industry”, February 2019

CFRF Upcoming Events & Meetings

May 7-9, 2019

32nd Lowell Wakefield Fisheries Symposium, Anchorage, AK  
Topic: Collaborative Fisheries Research


CFRF Priorities – Research & education

  • Industry-based biological data collection (Research Fleets)

  • Expanding opportunities for the commercial fishing community in southern New England

  • Habitat and trophic dynamics

  • Ecological impacts of offshore wind energy

  • Strengthening RI’s seafood processing capacity

  • Local seafood access, utilization, and education

Your support makes it possible for the CFRF to develop new initiatives that sustain healthy fisheries resources and vibrant fishing communities.  If you are interested in supporting collaborative research and sustainable seafood, please consider making a donation to the CFRF at!


We encourage members of the fishing industry to reach out with research ideas and priorities!

To download the March 2019 edition of the newsletter, click button below.