The effect of autotrawl systems on the performance of a survey trawl


Kotwicki, Stan, Kenneth L. Weinberg, and David A. Somerton
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Three aspects of a survey bottom trawl performance—1) trawl geometry (i.e., net spread, door spread, and headrope height); 2) footrope distance off-bottom; and 3) bridle distance off-bottom—were compared among hauls by using either of two autotrawl systems (equal tension and net symmetry) and hauls conducted with towing cables of equal length and locked winches. The effects of environmental conditions, vessel heave, crabbing (i.e., the difference between vessel heading and actual vessel course over ground), and bottom current on trawl performance with three trawling modes were investigated. Means and standard deviations of trawl geometry measures were not significantly different between autotrawl and locked-winch systems. Bottom trawls performed better with either autotrawl system as compared to trawling with locked winches by reducing the variance and increasing the symmetry of the footrope contact with the bottom. The equal tension autotrawl system was most effective in counteracting effects of environmental conditions on footrope bottom contact. Footrope bottom contact was most influenced by environmental conditions during tows with locked winches. Both of the autotrawl systems also reduced the variance and increased the symmetry of bridle bottom contact. Autotrawl systems proved to be effective in decreasing the effects of environmental factors on some aspects of trawl performance and, as a result, have the potential to reduce amonghaul variance in catchability of survey trawls. Therefore, by incorporating an autotrawl system into standard survey procedures, precision of survey estimates of relative abundance may be improved.