A New England panel of fishing industry leaders will meet with Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) Monday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at his ninth listening session on the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the federal fishing law of this nation. I will be one of seven panelists. The public is invited to attend this virtual listening session, and it will be live streamed on Congressman Huffman’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RepHuffman/ .
Congressman Huffman, who is chair of the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee, will be joined by Representatives Seth Moulton (MA-06), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), and additional members of Congress.
The panel of fisheries experts and stakeholders will hold a technical discussion of current and future challenges in federal fisheries management and explore potential solutions. The focus of my comments will be on the value of sustainable fisheries and importance of science-based management, the need to keep stock-rebuilding plans strong so New England species like cod and summer flounder (fluke) rebuild with firm allowable catch limits (ACLs) and rebuilding plans with science-based timelines, and enhancements to MSA to address climate change impacts on fish, fishermen, and fish managers.
Effects of offshore wind on the food web
The fourth University of Rhode Island Baird Symposium webinar on Offshore Renewable Energy in the US held Wednesday was a big hit. Over 130 people participated in the webinar. The “Learning As We Go” session addressed “Effects on the Food Web” and featured two guest speakers who have studied offshore wind farms in Europe for a number of years.
Presenters were Andrew Gill, principal scientist, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science from the United Kingdom; and Jennifer Dannheim, from the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany.
Questions from the audience were culled by Elizabeth Methratta, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center. An audience member asked a question about NOAA’s claim that ongoing fisheries surveys would be interrupted by offshore wind farms. The participant asked, “NOAA has referenced disruption of survey areas by wind farms. Does NOAA have specifics on survey areas disrupted (how they would be disrupted, where and frequency)?” Methratta added, “And how was survey disruption handled in Europe?”
Dr. Gill answered, “Fisheries surveys in the United Kingdom did not experience problems. Scientists worked around them, just like they compensate for weather. So wind farms did not interfere with surveys in United Kingdom wind farms.”
Another question asked by a webinar participant and panelist was in regard to the positive “reef effect” created by turbine pylons. A participant wanted to know, “Is the reef effect just accumulating and congregating life, or was it creating additional life?”
George Maynard, policy and research coordinator for the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, one of the panelists, added, “I understand the reef effect could be positive at the bottom, but isn’t this offset by a negative impact on top with pelagic fish?”
Dr. Dannheim answered, “The benthos (the sea bottom) reef effect is new production as life in the upper portions of the pylon falls to the sea bottom” Dr. Gill said, “We do not fully know what is happening with pelagic fish at the top (if it is positive or negative); further study is needed and this should be part of ongoing monitoring research at wind farms.”
One of the studies awarded recently by a research grant partnership between the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts was a pelagic fish study that utilizes acoustic telemetry tags in pelagic fish to track how pelagic fish move in and out of wind farms before, during and after construction. The study has had wide support — in fact, wind farm developer Orsted (owner of the Block Island Wind Farm) pledged support for the study in a recent research and monitoring plan it announced for their South Fork Wind Farm project.
Once again, hats off to the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, Sea Grant and the Braid Symposia for holding these webinars. The next one is on “Effects of noise and EMF on Benthic Communities” on Tuesday, October 20; for information visit https://seagrant.gso.uri.edu/special-programs/baird/ .
Where’s the bite?
Tautog fishing has been very good. I fished Saturday under high wind and sea conditions in Narragansett Bay and did well at slack tide only, when we caught our limit. Water was moving very fast and it was dirty, but when tide slowed fish could see/smell the bait and perhaps felt more comfortable moving around (dirty/sandy water often irritates the gills of tautog so they do not move around as much). “We have tautog now moving up the bay into the Providence River. The cooler weather has turned on the bite,” said John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle in Riverside. Matt Conti of Snug Harbor Marina in South Kingstown said, “The bite had been good at Nebraska Shoals but I expect that the tautog will be deeper once the weather clears, as water will be less sandy down deep.” “Tautog fishing has been good for customers off Newport, at Brenton Reef and Ft. Wetherill, Jamestown,” said Tom Giddings of The Tackle Box in Warwick. Lorraine Dante of Lucky Bait & Tackle in Warren said, “Customers are catching tautog at the Stone Bridge and at Bristol Narrows.”
Striped bass and bluefish. Conti of Snug Harbor said, “We have lots of striped bass to 31 inches, bluefish and false albacore being caught at Charlestown and East Beach.” “We now have striped bass in the slot size 28 inches to less than 35 inches being caught from the head of the Providence River to Colt State Park. Soft plastics like Al Gag’s Whip-It-Eels are working as anglers can target fish no matter where they are in the water column.” “Keeper striped bass (some larger than the slot limit) are being caught at night with eels in Narragansett Bay,” said Giddings of the Tackle Box. East End Eddie Doherty, Cape Cod Canal fishing expert and author, said, “ A few slot stripers were caught on the bottom this morning (Thursday) with white jigs. Albies were breaking at first light on the west tide, but the fussy eaters ignored lures and kept swimming toward Buzzards Bay.”
Offshore. Conti of Snug Harbor said, “The school bluefin tuna have been at the Mud Hole with green bonito and albies and larger fish mixed in. An 85-inch fish was caught last week. Cod fishing has been very slow and spotty offshore, but high winds and seas have prevented anglers from fishing.”
“Freshwater fishing has done nothing but improve since the water is cooling off a bit.” said Littlefield of Archie’s Bait. “Customers are catching some very nice largemouth bass now and are catching more pickerel. In Warwick, Gorton and Warwick Ponds are yielding fish for anglers.”