Lutcavage team to use ‘hexacopter’ drones to survey bluefin tuna

GLOUCESTER, MA – Back in 1993, Molly Lutcavage, then a scientist at the New England Aquarium, launched one of the region’s first cooperative research programs, working with fishermen and spotter pilots to photograph Atlantic bluefin tuna schools from the air to get a sense of how many of the big fish actually were out there.

That groundbreaking work provided solid evidence that there were many more bluefin in the western Atlantic than scientists had thought and helped the US industry in its struggle to retain access to the bluefin resource at a time when the fishery had been threatened with a shutdown.

Two decades later, Lutcavage, director of the Large Pelagics Research Center of the University of Massachusetts’s Gloucester Marine Research Station, is about to pioneer a whole new aerial survey technique.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded a one-year $145,694 grant that Lutcavage, postdoctoral fellow Angelia Vanderlaan, and their colleagues will use to purchase two hexacopters – remote-controlled aerial devices equipped with high-resolution cameras – and design and test new aerial bluefin survey protocols…

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