Dozens of underwater surveillance devices attached to large concrete blocks have been placed in the waters off the eastern South Shore, and a fisherman from Montauk who inadvertently carried one on Monday criticized the researchers for not having properly informed the fishing fleet.
Fishing researchers and the South Fork Wind Farm have confirmed that the devices are part of an effort to study fishing behavior, in part because of fishermen’s concerns about the wind farm’s cables impacting their livelihoods. Stony Brook University and partners have been deploying sensors to study fish since 2008
Commercial fisherman Dan Warner estimated the monitoring device built into a concrete block weighed over 500 pounds and ended up in his trawl net while fishing the area earlier this week.
âHe ripped the belly of my net, broke the side of my boat and took me two hours to pull it out,â he said. “It was a nightmare.”
Worse, he said, the wind farm companies that commissioned the study, Orsted-Eversource, failed to inform him or other fishermen who work in the area, some of whom said they also encountered the devices, which are connected by a chain and rope to two buoys which, according to Warner, did not reach the surface.
âThere were no navigation warnings, nothing,â he said.
The devices are part of a study to determine whether electromagnetic and other electric fields from wind farm cables affect the movement and behavior of fish, a concern of some fishermen.
When Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, started asking questions, she said she received a note from Cornell Cooperative Extension, which is working with Stony Brook University to place the devices as Orsted considers to install a cable to connect. its South Fork wind farm.
“We recently installed the acoustic network to monitor the effects of the cable installation / electromagnetic field on important commercial fish species,” according to the note to Newsday. “â¦ The project is in the initial phase of data collection prior to the construction of the cable.”
The team said they “would like to minimize the loss of receivers and any potential damage to fishing gear,” and provided a list of receiver contact details, saying they “would like to send this information to the fishing fleet” . He asked Brady to send a list of emails from Montauk and Shinnecock fishing captains. âWe would appreciate any help! The researchers said they previously provided a general map of the sensor field at a public working group meeting in the spring, but were unable to provide the final specific locations until. not all sensors will be deployed early this week.
Brady said the time to provide a notification is before the devices are installed.
âThey didn’t do any of that,â Brady said. “They dropped things and the guys started having problems and they didn’t do anything.” She sent a letter to Stony Brook professor Michael Frisk, who also chairs DEC’s Marine Resources Advisory Board, asking that some of the devices that conflict with fishing be moved.
Warner said he informed the Coast Guard about the devices and was told they did not know them. A Coast Guard spokesperson did not immediately respond.
DEC spokeswoman Maureen Wren said the agency does not require a permit to place the devices in water.
The DEC approved a license for Stony Brook and Cornell to “collect and possess” fish to be surgically tagged as part of the study, but the DEC was “not involved in scheduling the deployment of the networks,” he said. said spokesperson Lori Severino.
Orsted / Eversource spokesperson Meaghan Wims said the project was discussed at meetings of the Fisheries Studies Working Group, which included DEC, the City of East Hampton and others. officials, as well as the commercial fishing association. But Brady said it was never discussed when she attended the meetings.
Nonetheless, said Wims of Orsted / Eversource, South Fork Wind “moving forward … will provide advice on the location of the sensors in our [regular] Mariner’s Briefing, out of caution. âShe said the company contacted a fisherman to remedy the damage to his trawl.
Wims said sensors of the type deposited in the waters of the East End were “quite common in the region” and were part of the company’s “commitment to conduct fisheries research along the submarine cable route. “.
Lauren Sheprow, spokeswoman for Stony Brook University, said there were around 130 sensors deployed in New York waters and the new sensors were part of a “larger receiver network” along the east coast to “follow the movements of a variety of fish”.
Sheprow said the team shared their contact details with the commercial fishing association “as soon as our researchers completed the mooring deployment” this week. The group has already configured the devices and has not sent any notifications in the past.
Warner’s capture was “the first time something like this has happened,” she wrote. “We did not anticipate any damage to the equipment.” Previous monitors have been installed in Montauk, Jones Beach and the Rockaways.
DEC spokeswoman Maureen Wren noted that the project was not led by DEC and that the agency had “not been informed of the timetable for the deployment” of the sensors. She said that although its fisheries distribution list is for regulations and advisories, the DEC would be willing to use it to send information about sensors “if notified and requested” by the group.
Brady said Monday’s notification was too late – that fishermen should have had some say in where and if the devices were set up.