East-End fishermen expressing outrage over a fish-monitoring program funded by a wind-farm conglomerate that may end up leaving more than 40 large concrete blocks on the ocean floor in vital fishing grounds.
A research boat was working off the coast near Wainscott Thursday to collect data and install new monitoring devices that are smaller and longer lasting than those installed just over a year ago.
Last year’s monitors are moored to 500-pound concrete blocks and can’t be reused after collecting data for about a year, officials said.
Managers for the wind-farm company, Orsted, said the new monitors have a smaller, 150-pound mooring to keep them on the ocean floor.
However, no plans have been developed to remove the 500-pound anchors for the older devices, said representatives for South Fork Wind Farm, a joint venture for Orsted and Eversource. An Orsted manager said removal of the blocks is “an option we’re looking into at the moment.” The monitors track fish movement around cable lines from wind arrays 30 miles from Montauk.
The new monitors can be “remotely deployed when ready for collection, with the vertical line stored in the buoy canister on the ocean floor until it’s activated and the buoy floats to the surface. This minimizes “minimize any danger of entanglement for whales and other marine life” Orsted said in a separate statement.
Fishermen say Orsted has ignored their pleas to leave monitors out of crucial fishing grounds and to remove the 500-pound blocks.
“They’re putting new monitors in places we told them we fish,” said Dan Warner, who fishes from the Shinnecock Commercial Dock and last September caught one of the blocks in his trawl net, Newsday reported, causing extensive damage. “It’s a hazard. If it swings into something or goes into your rudder it’s dangerous.” He said more than 50 boats fish the area in season, chiefly for squid, a primary source of income.
As for the blocks, he said, “I can’t go put cinder blocks on Sunrise Highway and just leave them there. How is this possible?”
Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Assoc., an industry group, said Orsted should put monitors in “de-conflicted” waters that fishermen avoid.
“It is an accident waiting to happen and Stony Brook and Orsted will be liable if someone gets hurt,” she said.
Stony Brook University officials said they were “always looking to improve our acoustic monitoring research,” noting the work was “in response to requests from the local community” to see if “fish migration and behavior” are impacted by the cable.
Orsted managers said the company has been “working hard with the fishing community to come up with an alternative mooring.” ” one that’s “quite smaller than the concrete blocks” and sinks into the sea bed. in “a little more of an anchoring effect.”
But Warner said fishermen’s pleas to keep the devices out of critical squid fishing grounds fell on deaf ears.
“We already told them we work there and they went and put them right on our squid tows anyway,” he said.
Francis Bock, clerk of the East Hampton Town Trustees, which has authority over parts of the area, noted that the trustees themselves “required this study as part of the lease agreement with Orsted. The full intention of the study is for the benefit the fisheries.”
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