Review of Project Years
The Deepwater Horizon Oceanic Fish Restoration Project was launched as a pilot in 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.
Since its pilot year, participation in the program has grown as fisherman help to secure the sustainability of this important resource and the fisheries that depend upon it. Partnering with the fishing industry in the implementation and adaptive management of the restoration project enables industry to be a part of the solution to help restore fish resources in the Gulf of Mexico.
In the 2017 project year, seven vessel owners from Louisiana participated in a four-month pelagic longline repose from March 1 through June 30. Participants fished using greenstick gear for a collective total of 280 sea-days.
In 2018 and 2019, the repose period took place from January 1 through June 30. In the 2018 project year, seven vessel owners from Louisiana and three vessel owners from Florida participated in the repose.
In the 2019 project year, eight vessel owners from Louisiana and two vessel owners from Florida participated in the repose. Participants used greenstick, buoy and deep drop rod and reel gear for almost 500 sea-days in 2018, and more than 500 sea-days in 2019.
Data show clear bycatch benefits: the amount of bycatch species caught using alternative gear was minimal, and many of those that were caught were released alive.
Participants have provided positive feedback about the project:
“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.
According to another participant: “I am very invested in helping make alternative gear more effective for future generations of fishermen.”
NFWF and NOAA are excited about the future of this project based on the successful outcomes during the previous project years.