A new video system to assess the population of cod developed by a team of scientists at the UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and technology (SMAST) looks promising after its first test at sea.

The team of scientists, lead by Dr. Kevin Stokesbury, conducted their first tests of the system on Stellwagen Bank January 7-9.

The system differs greatly from the current practice of counting cod, which includes catching the fish in a net and hauling them onto the deck of a vessel, then counting, weighing and measuring them. The new video system uses an open-end fishing net with video cameras mounted to its frame to capture images of the fish passing through the net. Researchers later review the footage and count the different species, and estimate the size of each fish.

Dr. Stokesbury believes this new system is much more effective than the current practice, since it causes no harm to the fish and an open-end net can be towed for hours on end, allowing greater data to be collected.

The Baker-Polito Administration provided the project with $96,720 in capitol funding through the state Division of Marine Fisheries.

Last month's tests were to determine whether the video camera system design functioned properly, whether the video fish counts matched on-deck fish counts and whether the system could be used to measure the population of cod in the area.

The tests were conducted aboard the F/V Justice, a New Bedford commercial fishing vessel boat captained by Ron Borjeson. Dr. Stokesbury was joined by graduate students Travis Lowery and Nick Calabrese, and technician Christa Bank.