Review of 2017 Pilot Project

In its first year, the Deepwater Horizon Oceanic Fish Restoration Project was launched as a pilot, featuring a shortened four-month repose from March 1 through June 30, 2017. Launching the project as a pilot allowed continued engagement with vessel owners, fish dealers and other stakeholders so that NFWF and NOAA could make adjustments and enhancements for the full rollout of the project in 2018.

In November 2016, NFWF and NOAA issued a request for quotation (RFQ) to eligible vessel owners in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Of the 45 eligible vessel owners in the Gulf, about half applied for the pilot project. Of those interested in participating, the vast majority were from Louisiana. The remainder were from Florida. All applications were considered.

OUTCOMES

In total, seven vessel owners were chosen to participate in the pilot, all based in Louisiana.  Having all participants from a single state allowed for effective dissemination of best practices and in-depth analysis from a concentrated segment of the Gulf market. Since participating vessel owners refrained from fishing using pelagic longline gear during the repose, the pilot had bycatch benefits. 

Participants fished using alternative greenstick gear on 25 fishing trips (three to four trips per participant) for a total of 280 sea days. Observer records during the pilot sea-days also show clear bycatch benefits from the use of alternative gear: the amount of bycatch species caught using alternative gear was minimal, and those that were caught were released alive. 

All seven of the pilot participants found the project rewarding and provided positive feedback about their participation. 

 “I found it very rewarding to be a part of the research and experiment with the new gear, as well as to be a part of something that could help restore fish in the Gulf,” one participant said.

NFWF and NOAA are excited about the future of this project based on the successful outcomes of the 2017 pilot. 

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