Lucia Wong (7) released black sea bass to 22” in mid-June last year fishing south of the Jamestown Bridge with Capt. Dave Monti. Proposed regulations will start the season on June 24 again this year.Fish stock status and regulations floated by fishermen
A public hearing on proposed regulations is scheduled to take place March 11, 6:00 p.m. at the URI Bay Campus, Narragansett; public input and DEM Marine Fisheries Division recommendations on regulations will then be presented to the RI Marine Fisheries Council for their recommendations on April 1; public input, Division and Council recommendations will then be presented to Janet Coit, DEM director for her final decision on 2019 regulations. Attending meetings gives anglers the opportunity to have their regulation thoughts considered as part of the process. Final regulations are expected to be set sometime in the first two weeks of April.
Visit www.dem.ri.gov for the presentation that was reviewed at the meeting. Here are some highlights.
Atlantic menhaden is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. And last year only 722,388 pounds were landed against a quota of 2,366,618 pounds. Jason McNamee, chief of the marine affairs division of DEM said, “For some reason the menhaden did not come into the Bay last year so industry did not come close to landing the quota.” A few changes to the Atlantic menhaden management plan were recommended by DEM including one that would not allow any commercial menhaden harvest on Saturday, Sunday, official state holidays or prior to sunrise or following sunset. The fishery has experienced an expanded quota which may encourage more intense commercial fishing so the idea is to make sure all commercial harvesting is permitted not just purse seine nets as the management plan relates now.
Summer flounder (fluke) is not overfished, however, overfishing is occurring relative to biological reference points. A new higher quota is likely to be set for the commercial fishery (perhaps 15% more) but not the recreational fishery as they slightly overfished their harvest limit in 2018. Recreational regulations will likely be status quo (the same as last year) with a minimum size of 19”, six fish/person/day with a season running from May 1 to December 31. Additionally, the RI Saltwater Anglers Association suggested a Special Shore Provision… a 16” fish, two fish/person/day from May 1 to December 31. If approved the program would run just in special provision locations identical to the provisional scup areas.
Black sea bass
Black sea bass are not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. A benchmark stock assessment was done in 2016 with no new information at this time. Status quo measures were approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), the Commission regulates species that migrate along the northeast coast.. An update to the 2016 assessment is scheduled for 2019 but may not be available to use for the 2019 season. The status quo (same as last year) regulations the Division is recommending is a 15” minimum size with a three fish/person/day limit June 24 to August 31 and five fish /person/day from September 1 to December 31.
Recreational anglers at the meeting asked for an earlier season start so shore and Bay fishermen have a chance to catch legal sized black sea bass in early June, however, as July and August roll around the Bay water warms and most of the legal sized back sea bass leave the upper and middle part of the Bay.
Doug MacPherson, recreational Bay angler, RISAA board member and legislative committee chair, said, “Bay fishermen, particularly from shore, have been boxed out of a number of fisheries. You cannot catch a legal size fluke (19”) from shore and since last year Bay fishermen haven’t been able to catch black sea bass because the season starts so late. Thousands of Bay fishermen are being shut out from the black sea bass fishery.”
Last year DEM postponed the start of the season to accommodate the RI Party & Charter Boat Association so their members could continue to fish throughout the fall and winter and they are recommending the same this year.
Jason McNamee, Chief of the Marine Fisheries Division of DEM said, “Other recommendations, other than what has already been approved by the ASMFC, are unlikely to be approved as Massachusetts was denied changes to their season last week.”
Scup, bluefish and cod
Visit www.dem.ri.gov for scup, bluefish and cod regulation recommendations.
Fishermen comment on Vineyard Wind Environmental Plan
Last week the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held public comment meetings about the 84 turbine Vineyard Wind ocean wind farm project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Meetings took place in Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, New Bedford and Narragansett, RI. The EIS highlights potential environmental impacts of the project on habitat, fish, birds and mammals and plans to mitigation any negative impacts.
In Massachusetts the project has received mostly positive endorsements with points of caution from fishermen. Patrick Paquette, a Barnstable resident and outreach coordinator for Anglers for Offshore Wind said, “The public hearing in Hyannis was very positive with 95 percent of the comments in favor of the project. Multiple town officials, local organizations and residents from the area read prepared comments in favor of the project.”
Most fishermen making negative comments at the Friday night’s hearing in Narragansett, RI were those engaged in the $29.2-million mitigation negotiations with the developer through the Fishermen’s Advisory Board of the RI Coastal Resource Management Council.
At the Narragansett meeting commercial fishermen attacked the project saying the wind farm array and the spacing between turbines is not safe. Turbines are now approximately one mile apart with much wider transit lanes through the middle of the project. Fishermen at the hearing said that in a storm the wind farm would be dangerous and hard to navigate.
Fred Mattera, executive director of the Commercial Fisheries Center of RI, said, “We had a tragedy in the Block Island Wind Farm area on January 1 (referring to the sinking of the commercial fishing vessel Mistress). The Coast Guard command felt in unsafe to enter the area with their helicopter due to high winds and seas because of possible interference from the Block Island Wind Farm. So the Vineyard Wind Farm will not be safe for vessels.”
In Rhode Island recreational fishermen have had positive things to say about the Block Island Wind Farm. Bob Murray, commercial and recreational rod & reel fishermen, said, “The turbine pylons have created 90 feet of vertical structure that has attracted mussel growth and fish.”
In a letter to BOEM, the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association, commented on proposed wind farm research saying, “We are in favor of responsible development of offshore wind energy resources as long as the environment and marine opportunities, including recreational fishing are protected.”
Their letter went on to state three key points. First, they would like to have rod and reel surveys done as part of the wind farm research protocol as this is how recreational fishing (and many commercial fishermen) fish. Rod and reel surveys conducted in all seasons when fish are present would give research a good idea of what fish are in the windfarm area before, during and after construction. Additionally, research methods to study impacts on pelagic fish such as sharks, tuna, mahi, etc. should also be done.
Second, RISAA asked that additional structure be placed at the base of turbines to create habitat i.e. mussel growth, small fish and larger fish. With minimal effort pylons can create ideal rod and reel fishing habitat just like the Block Island Wind Farm turbines.
The third point recommended a combined stakeholder advisory board to explore the impacts of not only individual projects but more importantly the cumulative impact of multiple projects, lease areas and developers. Presently such a fishermen/stakeholder panel with appropriate recreational participation does not exist.
Visit BOEM’s website at www.boem.gov for hearing minutes once they are available.