Research Set-Aside good for fish and fishermen
What’s better than a program that raising funds for needed fishery research while providing fishermen with the opportunity to catch more fish?
The National Marine Fisheries Service’s Research Set-Aside (RSA) program is such a program. It has successfully worked for the scallop industry in New England and for a charter industry pilot program I participated in seven years ago.
RSA programs use a set-aside of fishery resources, whether quota or days-at-sea, to generate revenue that is used to conduct needed research that directly contributes to Council management. Here in the northeast the New England Fishery Management Council has successfully used their RSA program to study Atlantic sea scallops, Atlantic herring and monkfish.
The charter fishing industry RSA program I participated in with seven other vessels purchased summer flounder quota (with a grant) to run a summer flounder pilot project. Software developed during the pilot allowed charter captains to record catch and effort in real time electronically with computer tablets on their vessels.
Today the software is approved by NOAA for use by charter captains and commercial fishermen in the Greater Atlantic Regional. The software automatically sends robust fishing activity reports to fishery managers for real time management decisions. It also drastically reduces the amount of time fishermen spend filing fishing reports compared to the manual Vessel Trip Reports (VTRs) that had to be filed in the past. The reports now go to both state and federal fish managers and serve as an electronic VTR.
The New England Council is conducting a survey to help assess their RSA program. Atlantic sea scallop, Atlantic herring and monkfish RSA program participants, research partners and other stakeholders that have an interest or role in RSA programs are encouraged to take the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/7J7XJJ5 .
Community and fishermen weigh in on ocean wind
“Move forward slowly with wind farms, scaling them in stages so we learn as we go.” “Climate change is accelerating at a faster rate than we originally thought so we need renewable energy now.” “How have utility scale wind farms impacted fish and habitat in other countries?”
These were some of the questions and comments last week from Island residents at the Block Island Maritime Institute summer seminar series when I gave a presentation titled ‘Fishing among giants’. The presentation focused on the state of offshore wind farms and their relationship to fish, fishing and habitat.
What we learned from Block Island
In December, 2017 over 50 scientists presented their research findings at the Southern New England Offshore Wind Energy Science Forum. Their conclusion was that the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) has had no remarkable adverse effects on the environment, fish, mammals, birds and people. However, scientists made the point that the cumulative effect of multiple turbines in the same area are unknown so study before, during and after construction of future wind farms was advised.
Concerns about future wind farms
Anglers, charter captains and commercial fishermen alike have successfully fished the Block Island Wind Farm area. Anglers have caught summer flounder, black sea bass, cod and scup to name a few in the wind farm area. However, fishermen like scientists, have concerns about the cumulative impacts of many turbines in a windfarm as well as the layout of ocean windfarms. Fishermen want access to fish wind farm areas and all stakeholders want to safely travel though a wind farm.
Chris Brown, commercial fisherman, president of the Rhode Island Commercial Fisheries Center and president of Seafood Harvesters of America said, “Deepwater Wind did two years of research before the project, research during construction and two years after. We need to do the same with the Vineyard Wind project (being built off Nantucket). The idea of supporting a ‘Blue Economy’ is good but at what cost. We need national standards for wind farms that in essence say ‘do no harm’ to the ocean and fish.”
Steve Medeiros, president, Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA), said, “Although we are generally supportive of development of offshore wind energy resources we must stress that such development must be done with proper study and understanding of the impacts to our marine environment which our community uses for their livelihood as well as for recreation… our recommendation is to conduct summer time studies of rod & reel fishing (on Cox Ledge where Deep Water Wind is developing the South Fork Wind Farm) in all proposed development areas prior to construction, during construction, and after construction…”
Capt. Rick Bellavance, president Rhode Island Party & Charter Boat Association, and member of the New England Fishery Management Council, said, “Five turbines at Block Island is one thing, but several hundred turbines is quite another. We need to study ground fish and highly migratory (HMS) species at Cox Ledge with rod & reel surveys June through October.”
Planning model for all projects
John O’Keefe, Deepwater Wind Manager of Operations, Maintenance and Marine Affairs said his company carefully developed the planning process used at Block Island so they could use it as a planning protocol for future projects.
O’Keefe said, “Early in the project we do habitat and fisheries research, engineering studies, public meetings, open houses, and gather input from our fisheries liaisons and representatives from meetings and dockside conversation with the fishing and boating communities.” DWW then takes all this input and develops a workable wind farm layout.
Some projects in New England have not used a collaborative community/fisheries approach to develop wind farm layouts. They develop the layout first and then communicate it to fishermen even though it may not meet fishermen and boating access needs.
It’s clear through the Block Island Wind Farm success that offshore wind and fishing can coexist. We have a proven research protocol in place via the Block Island Wind Farm. This protocol allows us to address the differences in ocean bottom, habitat and fisheries from site to site while allowing community, boating and fishing input into the wind farm layout planning process.
Where’s the bite?
Freshwater. The largemouth bass bite is strong at Stump Pond and Olney Pond, Lincoln Woods. Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle, Providence, said, “The north cove of Olney Pond is holding a lot of bait and it has shade so the bass bite is good there. The carp bite continues to be good on the Blackstone Reservoir and Turner Reservoir.”
Summer flounder (fluke), black sea bass, scup. Captain Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “We were only a few shy of a full boat limit of fluke and sea bass on a full day trip at the start of the week. This is some of the best fluke fishing we have seen in years. Mid-week the fishing did slow down some but it was just back to average fishing… we have been averaging over 100 fluke and a boat limit of sea bass.” Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait & Tackle, Warren said, “The scup, sea bass and fluke bite have been consistent at the Mt. Hope Bridge and off Newport.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “Fluke and black seabass bite at Block Island is good with anglers hooking up with fluke at Warwick Light last week too.”
Striped bass, bluefish and bonito. Capt. John Sheriff of Capt. Sheriff Fishing Charters said, “This weekend we caught multiple large bass to 60 pounds trolling with parachute jigs in the early morning hours on the Southwest Ledge at Block Island.” Dave Henault of Ocean State Tackle said, “The striped bass bite is outstanding on Block Island. Adventure Charters has had success trolling umbrella rigs at the Island.” Capt. Frank Blount of the Frances Fleet said, “Saturday night we had a full boat limit before 10 p.m.” There are multiple reports of bonito still being around off Newport and along the coastal shore. Schools of bluefish have been on the surface in the mid-Bay area as well as north of the Newport Bridge. Manny Macedo of Lucky Bait said, “The striped bass bite is slow in this area but we are selling a ton of lures for bonito like Deadly Dicks, and epoxy lures.”
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association and a member of the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Contact or forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.noflukefishing.com.