Vineyard Wind gets support at hearings
Last week I testified at a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) online public hearing on the Vineyard Wind Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) along with 29 others. Vineyard Wind is the 84 turbine wind farm being built fifteen miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.
A total of five of these hearings took place over the past couple of weeks, four have taken place at press time, and all gave Vineyard Wind plans broad support including praise from Massachusetts state senators and congressmen from the Martha’s Vineyard area.
In testimony, I made a request to reclassify offshore wind farms impact on recreational fishing as a major benefit and not a minor benefit as noted in the SEIS. The best available science to date shows greater fish abundance in wind farms, a peer reviewed study that ran in the March, 2019 issue of Fisheries Science & Aquaculture Magazine, titled, "Meta-analysis of fish abundance at offshore wind farms".
The research used a meta-analysis of studies that have examined the abundance of finfish inside European wind farms compared to nearby reference sites. The study concluded that “The overall effect was positive… indicating a greater abundance of fish inside of wind farms” for both soft-bottom and complex-bottom fish species.
Recreational fishing at the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF), the only operating wind farm in the U.S., has been a bit better, even though fishing pressure has increased 200 percent by recreational anglers as it is now a destination. At the Block Island Wind Farm there are commercial gillnets set right up to the turbines, commercial fishermen trawl along the side of the wind farm and recreational anglers fish right up to the pylons. Just how fishing in wind farms should be.
Fish abundance in wind farms is important to Massachusetts and Rhode Island because both recreational and commercial fishing have a great impact on state economies. In Massachusetts, according the Fisheries Economies of the U.S., published by NOAA, both recreational and commercial fishing have a great annual sales economic impact on the state. Recreational fishing has a $1.07-billion annual sales impact and commercial fishing $2.30-billion. In Rhode Island recreational fishing sales impacts ($412-million) outperforms commercial fishing sales impact ($333-million).
We need to support responsibly developed offshore wind farms like Vineyard Wind. Wind farms will help us stem the tide and reverse impacts of climate change. We need to make sure proper research is done before, during and after construction to measure any negative or positive impacts. As research shows, I believe the cumulative impact of multiple wind farms will be positive, create more habitat and fish for commercial and recreational fishing.
Where’s the bite?
Striped bass and bluefish. Tom Giddings of the Tackle Box, Warwick said, “Customers are still catching bluefish in Greenwich Bay with large stripers in the forty pound range being caught at Block Island. Some reports of stripers at the Hurricane Barrier in Providence being taken with poppers and swimming lures at dawn and dusk and eels at night.” The bay is in transition as warming water is shifting bait and fish. “The striped bass are moving out of the upper Narragansett Bay area and are heading south to the Newport area. No reports of customers landing bluefish this week,” said Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait & Tackle, Warwick. “Some keeper bass are being caught trolling tube & worm and using live or chucked Atlantic menhaden in the Conimicut Point and Barrington Beach areas,” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside. “The bass bite along the coast has improved with larger keepers being taking along with school bass. This week a customer caught at 50” bluefish off the jetty, so they are getting larger too. And at Block Island the bite is good,” said Peter Silva of Quonnie Bait & Tackle, Charlestown.
Summer flounder (fluke), black sea bass, and scup. “Those fishing in the Warwick Neck/Patients Island area are landing scup, black sea bass and fluke. The fluke bite off the Warwick Country Club is good and anglers are landing fish on the West and North West side of Patience Island. Other areas with structure are yielding scup and sea bass for customers,” said Ken Ferrara of Ray’s Bait. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle said, “The scup bite has improved with anglers catching large scup but fewer fish than in the past. Most are catching five to ten fish (not 20 to 30 fish as in the past). The bite is good off Veterans Memorial Park Way, Sabin Point, Colt State Park and in the Mt. Hope Bridge area.” “Anglers are landing some fluke at the Jamestown Bridge this week fishing trenches and edges,” said Tom Giddings of the Tackle Box. Peter Silva of Quonnie Bait & Tackle said, “The fluke bite has improved anglers are catching keeper fluke in about 40 feet of water along the shore and at Block Island customers are catching big fish in the wind farm area to 29”. They are in deeper water there (75’ to 80’). Anglers are tipping their rigs with squid and silversides (or Peruvian smelts). Large hubcap size scup and black sea bass being caught along the coastal shore.” Littlefield of Archie’s Bait said, “The fluke bite has been on and off with reports of customers catching fish in the areas of the bridges some days and no fish other days.”
Freshwater fishing is strong. “We have had a surge of families as well as individual angler’s freshwater fishing for largemouth bass. Trout fishing has slowed. Popular baits are shiners and night crawlers. Ponds with a good bite include Gorton Pond, Warwick; Lincoln Woods Only Pond; and Barber Pond, South Kingstown,” said Ferrara of Ray’s Bait. Tom Giddings of the Tackle Box said, “Customers are catching big largemouth bass. One of our avid female anglers landed a 5.6 pound largemouth bass at Warwick Lake. But all major ponds are yielding great largemouth.” "Customers are catching largemouth bass with 3 to 4 pound fish being taken a Slater Park, Pawtucket. The sunfish bite is good too, providing great family fun,” said Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle.
Dave Monti 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, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at email@example.com or visit www.noflukefishing.com and his blog at www.noflukefishing.blogspot.com.