MITSG Fisheries Engineering Research
PIs: Chrys Chryssostomidis, MIT Sea Grant

Project Summary: MIT Sea Grant Fisheries Engineering Research (FER; formerly known as CFER) is a focused research effort of the MIT Sea Grant College Program. Its mission is the solution of problems facing the fishing and aquaculture industries of Massachusetts and the nation. While all projects include the application of engineering know-how, projects are typically multi-disciplinary and often involve biological, social and management issues.


FER-related links

FER-related projects and partnerships in the news

Overview :: FER Projects

Fisheries Research & Development:

Fishing Vessel Instrumentation and Telemetering
A Pilot Groundfish Study Fleet
The Development of a Whale-Free Buoy for Commercial Fishing
In-Situ Sea Scallop Assessment Using a Towed Sled
Passive Acoustic Applications in Fisheries
International Workshop on the Application of Passive Acoustics to Fisheries, April 8-10, 2002
Acoustic Detection of Cod and Haddock Spawning Areas
Stretch-Mesh Catch Controls
Mapping of New England Fishing Gear Areas (Note: this site requires JavaScript to be enabled, and is currently under construction)

Aquaculture Projects:

Moon Island Aquaculture Center
Gloucester Marine Finfish Hatchery (formerly Boston Harbor Finfish Hatchery)
The Ocean Drifter - Fish Farming on a Global Scale
Single Point Moorings (SPMs) for Aquaculture Cages
The Development of Robofeeder for Unmanned Offshore Cages

Education and Outreach:
Adopt-a-Boat: Linking Fishing Vessels and K-12 Classrooms
Raising Saltwater Fish in Your Classroom



Acoustic Detection and Telemetry of Right Whales
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With funding from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, FER has developed a prototype buoy that can detect underwater vocalizations of northern right whales and radio that information back to shore. Tracking these endangered mammals (see recent press release) is critical to warning ships of their presence and thus minimizing the risks of collisions. The FER listening buoy is being tested this summer.

Trawl Modifications For Reduced Habitat Impact
FER has developed replacements for some traditional trawl hardware using "software" devices made of fabric. These flexible fabrications use hydrodynamic pressure to achieve their purpose and bring some distinct advantages in handling as well as the potential to reduce unnecessary disruption to the seabed. The work is an extension of the headrope kites FER introduced in earlier trawl training courses. The kites provide the headrope lift needed for high-opening trawls, outperforming the plastic or metal floats normally used. The FER kites are now common in many of the southern New England pelagic fisheries.

Sea Scallop Dredge Design for Reduced Habitat Impacts
The current dredge used by the New Bedford scallop fleet is designed to withstand the rigors of towing over the hardest of bottoms. Historically, the impact of this gear on the seabed has not been taken into consideration, and large, heavy dredges have resulted. This project seeks to develop a dredge design that uses hydrodynamic forces rather than weight to keep the gear to bottom. The prototype dredge also has multiple short chain sweeps, rather than a single, highly-loaded sweep, to improve bottom tending in the absence of the normal cutting bar.

Fishing Vessel Instrumentation and Telemetering
FER is collaborating on a regional project to develop technology to allow commercial fishing vessels to be part of an environmental data gathering system. On-board instruments with computer-based displays and satellite communications will improve environmental predictions and give fishermen a communications link to data sets and fish markets.

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Moon Island Aquaculture Center
In cooperation with the City of Boston, FER lead a team of experts to identify ways to convert Moon Island into an aquaculture center. The site is the former sewage handling facility for the greater Boston area. The conversion of the 50-million-gallon granite reservoirs to house a sustainable form of aquaculture was the initial challenge. The use of recirculating technologies presents the most attractive development strategy. The presence of contaminated sediments in the reservoirs and the projected development costs require the establishment of a smaller commercial operation in Boston before the financing of the Moon Island development can be considered.

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Gloucester Marine Finfish Hatchery (formerly Boston Harbor Finfish Hatchery)
In partnership with the the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center, FER has established a Finfish Hatchery in Gloucester Harbor. This research and educational facility is open to the public.

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Aquaculture Permitting Guidelines for Massachusetts
This project is aimed at studying the regulatory requirements associated with marine aquaculture in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and surrounding coastal waters. We will prepare and distribute guidelines to assist commercial applicants in obtaining applicable aquaculture permits in Massachusetts and develop recommendations for greater coordination among local, state, and federal regulatory agencies to reduce the time required for permitting. We will also identify and assist commercial proponents of land-based recirculating finfish production and ocean-based production of finfish or shellfish willing to serve as test cases for the permit process.

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National Test Center for Open-Ocean Mariculture
The goal of this project is to support the establishment of an economically viable offshore mariculture industry through a program of research and testing on fish containment systems designed for open-ocean sites. In collaboration with industry partners, model tests have been conducted to support the development of specific open-ocean mariculture system designs using the facilities at the David Taylor Model Basin (DTMB) and at MIT. Testing has been done on the Ocean Spar Pan and the Sea Station cage, both of which have been commercialized by Ocean Spar Technologies, LLC of Washington state. We also determined wave-induced loads on cylindrical cages in collaboration with Sea Pride, Inc., of Florida.

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The Development of Robofeeder for Unmanned Offshore Cages
The need to cost-effectively feed caged fish in the offshore environment has constrained the growth of offshore aquaculture. MITSG Fisheries Engineering Research has developed an automated feeding system that is currently being tested at two offshore sites. Learn more about the project