Coastal Resources

Sea Grant, DOE, NOAA Fisheries partner to invest $1M+ to support research for the co-existence of ocean energy with Northeast fishing and coastal communities

The Northeast Sea Grant Consortium, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office and Water Power Technologies Office, and NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, announces a research funding opportunity to improve understanding of offshore renewable energy interactions with fishing and coastal communities to optimize ocean co-use.

This unique funding partnership will support objective, community-focused research on ocean renewable energy—including offshore wind and hydrokinetic current, tidal, and wave energies—in the U.S. Northeast for the benefit of a diversity of communities and stakeholders.

With a focus on advancing community and economic resilience, the funding opportunity aims to catalyze proactive socio-economic and technology research for offshore renewable energy planning in the Northeast. Over $1 million will be available to support research projects across three innovative areas:

  • Fisheries and Fishing Community Resilience
  • Coastal Community and Economic Resilience
  • Co-Location Management of Ocean Renewable Energy with Other Marine Activities

The Northeast Sea Grant Consortium and federal partners seek collaborative, multidisciplinary, and innovative proposals with results that will be valuable to a variety of stakeholders, from the fishing industry to resource managers, as the U.S. ocean energy landscape evolves.

The funding competition is accepting pre-proposals from eligible Northeast researchers through May 14, 2021. Read more about the Request for Proposals here.

The initiative was announced as part of a Biden Administration fact sheet on wind energy, issued from the White House briefing room on March 29: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/29/fact-sheet-biden-administration-jumpstarts-offshore-wind-energy-projects-to-create-jobs/.

Graphic for Ocean Renewable Energies research initiativeThe Northeast Sea Grant Consortium consists of the Connecticut, Maine, MIT, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Woods Hole Sea Grant Programs. Sea Grant’s mission is to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment.

NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center works with the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office to ensure informed management decisions based on sound science, promoting sustainability of marine life, supporting fisheries and coastal communities, and generating economic opportunities and benefits from the use of these resources.

DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office and Water Power Technologies Office are committed to developing and deploying innovative technologies for clean, domestic power generation from natural renewable resources such as wind, hydropower, waves, and tides. The mission is to enable energy science research, development, and testing of new technologies to advance innovative energy systems in the United States.

Original Post 

LIS Blue Plan now in hands of CT Legislature

bull kelp in ocean looking up towards surfaceThe Long Island Sound Blue Plan, a marine spatial plan for what many consider the state’s most valuable natural resource, has been voted out of the state Legislature’s Environment Committee and awaits a vote in the full House and Senate. Read about the plan and why many believe it should be approved in articles by CT Sea Grant Communications Coordinator Judy Benson published March 5 in Connecticut Hearst Media newspapers, March 7 in The Day of New London and March 10 in the Connecticut Mirror.

Read the article published in The Day here.

Read the article published in CT Hearst Media newspapers here.

Read the article published in the Connecticut Mirror here.

The Long Island Sound Blue Plan can be found here.

CT Sea Grant Fellowship Opportunities

salt marsh
Image by Judy Benson, Connecticut Sea Grant

Connecticut Sea Grant has announced new fellowship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students!

  • To learn more about the Undergraduate Summer Marine Science Research Fellowship for Underrepresented/Underserved Students click here.
  • To learn more about the Coastal & Marine Economics Fellowship 2021-22 click here.

Shellfish farmers stay afloat with innovation, financial aid

Story and photos by Judy Benson

A G&B Shellfish Farm crewman sorts oysters from clams aboard the Stasie Frances on June 10. The vessel was working natural shellfish beds offshore from Fairfield as part of the natural shellfish bed restoration project led by Connecticut Sea Grant and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture/Bureau of Aquaculture.
A G&B Shellfish Farm crewman sorts oysters from clams aboard the Stasie Frances on June 10. The vessel was working natural shellfish beds offshore from Fairfield as part of the natural shellfish bed restoration project led by Connecticut Sea Grant and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture/Bureau of Aquaculture.
Connecticut shellfish farmers endured the precipitous sales losses that nearly shut their businesses down during the early days of the pandemic last spring.

Now, as their normally slow winter season approaches, oyster growers like Dave Hopp, Steve Plant and Larry Fernandez are preparing to weather what could be even tougher months ahead, with fresh influxes of federal and state funding coming just when they’re going to be needing it most.

“We’ve got to get through this,” said Hopp of Bell’s Shellfish, a company he owns with his two grandsons that harvests oysters and clams from the waters of Long Island Sound offshore from Norwalk and Bridgeport.

For the first time this summer, Bell’s Shellfish and several other companies sold their oysters and clams directly to customers at outdoor markets and breweries. As colder temperatures descend, Hopp’s grandson Robert Norrholm is looking to do home deliveries of shellfish for the holidays.
“As of right now, we’re just keeping our heads above water,” he said. State and federal assistance they received has been critical.

Connecticut Cultured Oysters owner Steve Plant survived the near total loss of his restaurant sales by shucking and selling fresh oysters himself seven days a week at Ford’s Lobsters, a seasonal outdoor eatery next door to the Noank docks where he keeps his boats, along with income from his wife Jill’s farmers market sales.  While Jill Plant can continue selling at the indoor winter farmers market, the end of the outdoor dining season has Steve Plant hoping the modest rebound of wholesale restaurant orders he’s been seeing will continue. But he’s keenly aware a further surge in COVID cases could shut indoor dining again.

“Nobody knows whether we’re going to find ourselves back in the same situation we were in last spring,” he said.

He already dipped into his savings and “tightened his belt” to get through the spring and summer. Now, he and other shellfishermen are awaiting financial assistance from new federal and state programs from the SBA, USDA, NOAA and Connecticut CARES small business grants.

“Those programs weren’t available during the worst of the crisis in the spring,” he said. “But they may be coming along now when it’ll be beneficial for us going into the winter.”

Tessa Getchis, aquaculture extension specialist for Connecticut Sea Grant, said that the state’s $30 million shellfish industry wouldn’t have been able to survive without the various state and federal assistance programs that many – but not all – shellfishermen have tapped so far. These ranged from the Paycheck Protection Program and others broadly available, to those that specifically targeting shellfish farmers. CT Sea Grant worked with the state Department of Agriculture Bureau of Aquaculture to facilitate direct market sales, make shellfishermen aware of financial assistance and identified innovative ways for the farmers to earn income while markets were closed.

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Project Expands Support for CT Shellfish Industry

Marc Harrell

Connecticut shellfish farmers who endured severe sales losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic are being offered the chance to earn income by working on a unique project to rehabilitate the state’s natural shellfish beds.

The project, developed by Connecticut Sea Grant and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, will employ shellfish farmers with vessels normally used to harvest oysters to instead raise and relocate oyster shell buried in silt and other materials off the bottom of the beds. The exposed oyster shell would then provide the preferred habitat for oyster larvae. The shellfish farmers would be compensated for a portion of their hours worked.

The project is the second phase of a three-part initiative to support shellfish farmers hurt by sales losses to restaurants and other key customers. At the same time farmers are being assisted, the natural shellfish beds that are the main source of oyster seed for Connecticut’s commercial and recreational beds will be restored to greater productivity. The natural beds span about 7,000 acres offshore in areas mainly from West Haven to Greenwich.

“We are pleased to have been able to secure new funds to support the aquaculture industry, using innovative avenues to provide some short-term cash flow for work that will enhance the productivity of natural beds in the future, with associated economic and ecological benefits,” said Sylvan De Guise, director of Connecticut Sea Grant.

Connecticut Sea Grant and the state Department of Agriculture collaboratively received $74,999 in federal funds from the National Sea Grant Office to fund the project, which is being supplemented with $50,474 worth of in-kind services. During the first phase of the project that began on May 6, shellfish farmers have been working on different areas of the natural beds than are being targeted in the second phase.

A third phase of the project, which would begin pending approval of additional federal funding, would compensate farmers for shellfish that have grown too large for consumer markets. Those shellfish would then be planted on closed portions of state and town shellfish beds across the state to repopulate those areas.

“Over the past four weeks, more than one dozen shellfish companies have actively rehabilitated the state’s public shellfish beds during phase one of this project plan,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Bryan P. Hurlburt. “The implementation of phase two within the next week will enable continuation of this critical work in shallower areas and provide producers with compensation through our collaboration with Connecticut Sea Grant.

“These efforts are crucial to ensuring the future sustainability of the state’s shellfish industry through enhanced management of Connecticut’s public seed beds and facilitating availability of oyster seed to the entire industry,” Hurlburt said.

The Department of Agriculture will continue to document the enhancement achieved through the rehabilitation efforts using a combination of vessel monitoring system data, landings reporting and via the deployment of an underwater video camera. The camera footage would document bottom conditions of those areas that have been worked versus baseline conditions in areas of the beds that remain untouched. Staff intend to document long-term recovery of beds by assessing conditions and oyster recruitment levels on project areas in subsequent seasons. The information will be used to develop best management practices for the natural oyster seed beds to achieve maximum production of oyster seed there in the future.

Shellfish companies interested in participating in the program should submit their request via email to David Carey, director of the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Aquaculture, at: David.Carey@ct.gov.

Original Post: https://seagrant.uconn.edu/2020/06/04/project-expands-support-for-ct-shellfish-industry/