Provided by In the Loop:

Dec. 2, 2011

Contact: Ed Blaguszewski

Leading Bluefin Tuna Research Center Based at Hodgkins Cove Site

GLOUCESTER, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) today celebrated the opening of a shared marine science research center at Hodgkins Cove, a $400,000 renovation made to promote sustainable fisheries and economic development. Working in close collaboration with the fishing industry, researchers will focus on tuna, billfish and other large, ocean-going species. DMF experts will investigate lobster reproduction.

Robert Holub, UMass Amherst Chancellor, said, “With the help of many people, we have rehabilitated this incredible oceanfront facility on a deepwater cove in Gloucester, one of the most desirable waterfront properties in New England, in a fishing town that has been the site of entrepreneurship for hundreds of years. Today, the Large Pelagics Research Center [LPRC], under the direction of Professor Molly Lutcavage, is conducting internationally recognized research here that is vital to the health of our oceans.”

“This center will develop expertise that will inform the future sustainability of our marine fisheries while also serving as the new home of the LPRC, a world-class research program for the study of large open-ocean wandering species such as giant bluefin tuna and leatherback turtles, which are the subject of an ongoing research project by our Division of Marine Fisheries,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan Jr. “All of us in state government can be proud of this new facility and the important work it will enable.”

Also participating in today’s event were state Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester; Paul Diodati, director of the DMF, and Rich Ruais, executive director of the American Bluefin Tuna Association.

Diodati observed, “The bluefin tuna fishery has a long history along the Massachusetts coast. This new research facility will conduct important work on the migration and distribution patterns of this fish, which is critical for understanding and managing the stock.”

Lutcavage’s research center found a home at UMass Amherst’s Department of Environmental Conservation in 2009 after many years at the University of New Hampshire. She built the LPRC into a world-class research program for the study of giant bluefin tuna, leatherback turtles and other large open-ocean fish species, or pelagics. Lutcavage and the laboratory have international reputations characterized by “complete partnerships with fishermen,” she said. Gloucester is a leading port for recreational and commercial fishing for bluefin tuna, which migrate throughout the Gulf of Maine and Atlantic Ocean.

UMass Amherst and the DMF signed a Memorandum of Understanding in October 2011 to allow collaborative use of the marine station for research and education going forward. About half of the 6-acre property is buildable with no significant limitations for anticipated education and research‐focused uses.

UMass Amherst bought the marine station in 1970. Professor Herbert Hultin, a widely respected food scientist, directed the facility from 1979 until his death in 2007. The property lay unused until the feasibility study showed it could be refurbished. UMass Amherst spent about $150,000 and the state Division of Marine Fisheries contributed about $250,000 to renovate the 3,200-square-foot building. Improvements include roof and floor repair, upgraded electrical wiring and weather-proof windows. The building now features a conference room/library, several offices, a data analysis laboratory and wet-bench lab.

UMass Amherst, as a national research institution, has significant faculty expertise in marine biology, estuarine ecosystems and aquaculture. Investment in the Gloucester facility fits the university’s mission to conduct wide-ranging research that can promote sustainability and economic development in the Commonwealth. The LPRC has four scientific staff and three graduate students working on site. Future plans envision graduate and undergraduate students conducting field research, and faculty conducting short courses while working there.

The research station will be sustained as part of the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute, a partnership of the DMF and UMass to promote sustainable fisheries through education and research. Paul Fisette, head of UMass Amherst’s Department of Environmental Conservation, said, “Our team includes the multi-campus UMass School of Marine Sciences, led by Dean Robert Gamache at UMass Lowell. On the Amherst campus, fish biologist Andy Danylchuk is the coordinator.”

In 2010, the commercial Massachusetts fishing industry landed 282 million pounds of seafood valued at $470 million. In 2008, 73,000 jobs were supported by the commercial fishing industry in Massachusetts, third in the nation after California and Florida. Recreational fishing is extremely popular and has a substantial economic value. Daylong charter trips for bluefin tuna, for example can range up to $2,000, and visiting anglers also spend money on equipment, food, lodging, gas and other tourism-related activities.