“Anglers who fish the Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF) say it has been beneficial for fishing,” said a study published in Marine Policy, an international journal of ocean affairs.
“Interview findings revealed anglers’ enjoyment of the offshore wind farm as an enhanced fishing location, due to catch and non-related aspects of the experience…. Respondents also value the wind farm as symbolic of progress towards green energy,” said study authors Tiffany Smythe of the United States Coast Guard Academy, and David Bidwell and Grant Tyler of the University of Rhode Island.
An advanced online copy of the May, 2021 issue of Marine Policy can be found at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/0308597X.
The study, titled “Optimistic with reservations: The impacts of the United States’ first offshore wind farm on the recreational fishing experience,” said, “Anglers reported concerns about increased crowding around the offshore wind farm and raised concerns about potential fishing access restrictions around this and future projects.”
In public hearings surrounding northeast offshore wind farms, the Coast Guard has repeatedly said they will not restrict fishing around or in wind farms. And, developers have said, they do not have the jurisdiction (or desire) to restrict fishing in and around their wind farms. I am not aware of any fishing restrictions that have occurred at the Block Island Wind Farm since it became operational in Dec. 2016 except during limited maintenance periods to ensure work crew and boater safety.
Slow down for right whales
There is a 10-knot small vessel (less than 65 feet overall) speed limit in Cape Cod Bay to protect endangered right whales from the threat of ship strikes. During the late winter and early spring, right whales migrate into and aggregate in Cape Cod Bay, where they feed on zooplankton.
On March 21, an aerial survey of the bay sighted 89 right whales, including three mother-calf pairs. As we move into the spring, these whales begin to feed closer to the surface and become more susceptible to ship strikes. Ship strikes are a significant source of mortality to these endangered whales. However, the lethality of ship strikes is greatly reduced when vessels are operating at less than 10 knots speed.
For more information regarding the management of protected marine species in Massachusetts, please visit our website ( www.mass.gov/marinefisheries) or call DMF at 617-626-1520.
Anglers discuss climate change impacts
This week anglers and recreational fishing associations from Rhode Island and Massachusetts weighed in on the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) request for initial public input on Section 216© of the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.
In addition to stakeholder input meetings (the most recent one was held on Thursday), the NOAA plans to meet with Regional Fisheries Councils and has asked fisheries stakeholders to email comments by April 2.
Anglers are experiencing profound changes from climate impacts of warming water, acidification, lower oxygen, rising sea level and habitat degradation. And, the fish we are catching today are different in type and abundance than what we caught 10 years ago.
Warm-water fish such as black sea bass, scup and summer flounder have moved into the area in greater abundance. And, cold-water fish such as winter flounder, cod and American lobster have left the area for colder, deeper water.
All of this is leading to less productive stocks, which could lead to lower catches, less stability, shifting stocks and new by-catch.
In a letter to the NOAA this week, the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association, which represents 7,500 anglers and 28 affiliated fishing organizations, said, “Our national fisheries need to have strong and sustainable science-based management more than ever before. We should not move to weaken standards as some stakeholders recommend. Lowering the bar on things like ecological reference points such as biomass thresholds and targets is not the way to go.”
East End Eddie Doherty, a noted Cape Cod Canal fishing expert and author, said, “Last year was not a productive season for striped bass on the canal, which may be attributable to the reduction in oxygen-rich levels dissipating and a huge increase in the seal population. It wasn’t always like this, so I think that climate change is driving seals to Cape Cod beaches and the canal … it is estimated that seals consume 100 pounds of striped bass per day.”
I believe possible solutions to challenges could be to first make fisheries climate ready by building healthy stocks, end over-fishing, and rebuild stocks. Second, we need to fill the science gap with enhanced surveys and assessments done more frequently. And third, we need more funding for the enhanced science and management programs.
NOAA will be accepting email comments until April 2 at OceanResources.Climate@noaa.gov. Let your New England Fishery Management Council representative (www.nefmc.org/calendar/april-2021-council-meeting) know how you feel, and send them a copy of your comments by April 12, as the NOAA is scheduled to meet with them for input on April 13.
Opening Day of trout season is Wednesday in Rhode Island
The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced that Rhode Island trout-stocked lakes, ponds, rivers and streams will open for fishing at 6 a.m. on Wed., April 7. The trout season in Massachusetts has been open. For a list of trout stocked ponds in Massachusetts, visit www.mass.gov/service-details/massachusetts-trout-stocked-waters-list .
The season is opening earlier in Rhode Island this year to eliminate the large crowds that often accompany the traditional Opening Day of trout fishing season in April.
An advisory issued by DEM said, “During the COVID-19 public health emergency, fishing should be enjoyed as a solitary experience or with members of your immediate household, not as a group activity. If you arrive at a favorite fishing spot and find that crowds are forming, please leave and choose a different location.”
DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife is stocking over 60,000 hatchery-raised rainbow, brook, golden rainbow and brown trout in more than 100 waterways across the state. In addition, 4,000 Sebago salmon will be stocked statewide. For a complete list of stocked waters and links to regulations and licenses, visit www.dem.ri.gov/programs/fish-wildlife/freshwater-fisheries/troutwaters.php.
Where’s the bite?
Freshwater trout season opens Wednesday. See above link for a list of stocked waterways. Prior to opening of trout season, anglers have been targeting large-mouth bass, perch and crappie with success.
Cod fishing. Party boats fishing for cod this winter (weather permitting) include the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com, the Seven B’s at www.sevenbs.com, and the Island Current at www.islandcurrent.com.