The fishing industry in Massachusetts and Rhode Island collaborates with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
This is the way it should be.
It was no surprise to me when a story titled ‘Emails show bond between NOAA, fishermen against project’ appeared in Energy & Environmental (E & E) News on Oct. 25.
In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, big fishing (those representing major fishing companies or fishing associations), were reportedly discussing a review of the Vineyard Wind ocean wind farm environmental study with NOAA staff, some from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.
By design, NOAA and fishermen are supposed to work together. Historically NOAA has conducted the longest running fish stock survey up and down the east coast. The survey serves as a tool, along with formal stock assessments, establishment of allowable catch limits, rebuilding time lines and the development of fishery management plans for each species. These are the successful measures outlined in our national fishing law, the Magnuson Stevens Act (and its eight regional councils), that have successful rebuilt 45 of our fish stocks since 2009.
It is the job of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to work closely with fishermen, so yes, when it comes to ocean wind farm development in our oceans that may impact fishing, it is NMFS’s job to talk to fishermen, review research and research approaches and express their perspective on how it will impact fish, fishing and habitat.
However, the ocean does not belong to fishermen, big fishing companies or ocean wind farm developers. No one special interest group should have the right to block the development of a natural resource (whether it be ocean wind farms or fishing) because the oceans are a natural resource for the benefit of all the people of the United States of America. The ocean belongs to all of us.
So our national government and congressional leaders need to step in. We need an ocean law that says do no harm. Fish and habitat research needs to be done before, during and after wind farm construction to see what fish are in an area and what impact (positive or negative) the wind farm is having on fish and habitat and examine cumulative impacts as they are built. When this was done on the Block Island Wind Farm we found it had no remarkable negative impacts of fish or habitat. And as a fishermen who fishes the Block Island Wind Farm area, fishing is arguable better than it used to be even though fishing pressure has increased there substantially.
We need fish and fishermen, but we also need ocean wind as a renewable energy source as the clock is ticking on the impacts of warming water due to climate change which is dramatically impacting the fishing too. Fishing and wind farms have to learn to coexist. And most important, we need an ocean that is managed like it belongs to all the people and no one special interest group… the fishing industry or wind farm developers.
Commission sets slot for striped bass
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted last week to create a slot limit for striped bass next year, the regulation would be one fish between 28- and 35 inches/person/day. The slot would reduce removals by about 19 percent.
Where’s the bite?
Striped bass: East End Eddie Doherty of Mattapoisett said, “This week we had some keeper stripers in the Cape Cod Canal in the 32- to 34-inch range caught near the Sagamore Bridge. They were in a good size school of 24-inch fish that had the birds working overtime on a nice fall day.” School striped bass are still in our bays and all along the MA and RI coastal shore. When returning to Wickford Harbor this past week school bass have often been just inside or outside the Harbor jetty. Fish have also been following bait into the Harbor with swirls often occurring all around my dock. “You either have to wait for them to come by or keep moving to find the fish. But the bite from the beach is good along the coast from Pt. Judith to Watch Hill.” said Matt Conti of Snug Harbor Marina. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & tackle said, “We still see bass all around the upper Bay with quahogers reporting seeing them on the surface when they are shell fishing.”
Tautog fishing is good, however when water is turbid turned up from storms, the fishing has not been good. Sand in the water irritates the gills of tautog so when the water is sandy they have a tendency to not swim around. So with little fish movement the bite is not good. In addition to their gills being irritated by the sand it also decreases visibility so the tautog have difficulty seeing your bait or jig. For the past week tautog fishing after storms with high seas the fishing has been off, like last Saturday. However, once things settled down on Sunday the fishing was off the charts good once again. “Newport has been very good, however, you have to find the spots that have not been overfished. A lot of shorts are being caught in overfished spots but the big ones are still on rock piles. Last week we weighed in an 18.5 pound tautog. There are plenty of fish out there.” said Matt Conti of Sung Harbor Marina, South Kingstown. John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside aid, “Fishing off the dock at the Veterans Parkway new medical office building has been very good. And fishing from shore at Beavertail is good too. Customers are catching their limit of fish with a lot of shorts mixed in.” Capt. Frank of the Frances Fleet said, “Blackfishing continues to be very strong with limit catches nearly every single trip. If we don’t limit out we are with in a small handful. The size has been out of this world as well. Many fish in the 10 pound range with some real brutes tipping the scales at over 12 pounds.”
Freshwater: “The bass bite has been off a bit with the cold weather.” said Littlefield of Archie’s. Rick Manson from North Smithfield, an avid freshwater angler said “Lower water levels in some ponds created algae blooms and low oxygen conditions. This was not good for fishing. And, the past couple of weeks the largemouth bass fishing has been difficult. We have been fishing the shallows working our way back to deeper water with the fish being down deeper, but the bite just has not been good in northern and southern Rhode Island ponds.”