R/V Georgia Bulldog

The R/V Georgia Bulldog has been rigged for multipurpose fishing:

  • standard shrimp trawler (double or twin-trawls)
  • bottom trawl for finfish
  • longline for swordfish
  • bottom longline for tilefish
  • handline for snapper & grouper
  • traps or pots for finfish
  • trawl or dredge for scallops
  • sea turtle abundance surveys

The oldest and most well-known UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant research vessel is the R/V Georgia Bulldog.

Based at the Brunswick Station, the “Bulldog,” as she is more commonly referred to, was originally named the Lady Marilyn, and was built in 1977 in St. Augustine, Florida, by the Diesel Engine Sales Company (DESCO).

A DESCO-style hull gives the Bulldog the classic lines of a true shrimp trawler. The University of Georgia purchased the boat in 1980, renamed her, and she and her crew have been steadily conducting research on the high seas from Virginia to Texas ever since.

The Bulldog has been involved in research projects that include a wide array of traditional fishing techniques and methodologies. While the Bulldog’s work includes fishery development, bottom mapping and marine species characterization, the majority of work has been done with a heavy emphasis on specialized gear.

The Early Days

Some of the earliest research conducted using the Bulldog includes trawling, trapping, jigging and longlining. Later efforts expanded into geological sampling, acoustical surveys, developing fisheries, a platform for a submersible remote operated vehicle (ROV) and filming gear and marine organism behavior with a real-time underwater video system.

The most significant work aboard the Bulldog to date has been the numerous and ongoing endeavors to protect sea turtles. In 1986, many experimental turtle excluder devices (TEDs) were tested in trials at Cape Canaveral, Florida. During these trials, several TEDs designed by shrimp fishermen were evaluated as 97 percent effective at releasing turtles. Meeting this criteria, many of the devices were certified as legal for use in the shrimp fishery. In fact, it remains that all TED types in use today were certified aboard the Georgia Bulldog during these trials. Another critical result of the work was that it opened the door to the acceptance of TEDs by the shrimp industry.

Research

Today the Bulldog’s fieldwork is focused on conducting sea turtle research and improving trawl gear technology. The Bulldog’s “can-do” reputation in research at sea is a result of both the hard work of the crew and the versatility of the vessel. The cooperative nature of most interagency projects involving the Bulldog attests to the usefulness of such a multifaceted tool with a wide geographic range.

Outreach and Education

Beyond her use as a research platform, the Bulldog has always been used as a mobile marine classroom. The vessel provides the University the perfect stage for educational activities of all sorts. Instructional exercises and training demonstrations include ‘open-boat’ tours at various coastal festivals and Blessing of the Fleet Festivities, law enforcement boardings, fishing vessel safety training and use as the staging area for video productions and news announcements to name a few.

An important part of the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Field School, the Bulldog enhances educational opportunities for college students by transporting them to estuarine sampling sites to conduct research in the waters surrounding Brunswick.

Specifications

The 72′ Georgia Bulldog is a wooden-hull boat, powered by a 6-cylinder Caterpillar (3406) 335 hp diesel engine. Living quarters are air-conditioned, and the boat can sleep a total of 8 people. Facilities include shower, head, gas stove, refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave oven and television.

Equipment on the Bulldog includes the following:

  • depth recorders
  • surface water temperature gauge
  • 3 VHF radios
  • 2 GPS units
  • plotter for navigation
  • color fish finding depth recorder
  • 2 radars
  • automatic pilot
  • real-time underwater video system
  • 2 computers

The Bulldog was used in an offshore fisheries development program to demonstrate the feasibility of refitting shrimp boats for fishing with other types of gear, demonstrate techniques of offshore fishing and to carry out exploratory research for locating and defining offshore fish stocks. Home port for the R/V Georgia Bulldog is Brunswick, Georgia at the East River dock of the University of Georgia Marine Extension, Fisheries Station.

Underwater Video System

The R/V Georgia Bulldog serves as a platform to examine devices that are required by law in shrimp trawls. These devices allow sea turtles, fish and other marine organisms to exit from the shrimp net. The Turtle Excluder Device (TED) guides sea turtles, large fish and sharks out of the shrimp net. The Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD) gives finfish and crabs an opportunity to escape by providing an opening that is located past the TED. The need to actually see how these devices performed while towing the nets underwater was essential. Researchers were able to answer behavioral questions on how sea turtles, fish and shrimp react to the various devices.

The Bulldog’s captain, Lindsey Parker, developed an underwater video system that would allow fisheries biologists and gear researchers to view real-time video of the devices being tested. The system is self contained, requiring only room for the 350 LB unit and 220 volts for the hydraulic pump. With 100 meters of cable and eighteen conductors, the system can operate two cameras, two lights and a hydrophone simultaneously.

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