GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 5, 2013

Sonar cable plans to disrupt lobstermen

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — Fixed gear fishermen and lobstermen from just north of Boston to Seabrook, N.H. will have to make way for a short time as a global technical company conducts a Sonar survey using a 110-foot vessel, Sea Lion V.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries, Tetra Tech, a global technical engineer firm based in California, plans to use Sea Lion V to transport sonar equipment to locate a potential path for a cable. The company employs 14,000 people and saw $2.7 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2012, according to its website.

Throughout July and August, the company plans to use the Sonar equipment from Revere Beach to the Seabrook, N.H. area circling around Cape Ann.

There will be four zones and the sonar equipment will spend 7 to 10 days in each zone.

But, July and August are the worst times to be interfering with lobstermen, according to Bill Adler, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen Association. “(The equipment) is smack dab right in the middle of lobster buoy heaven,” he said.

Adler said lobstermen received little notice about the plans, he was only notified through Gloucester harbormaster James Caulkett. If the plans came outside of July and August, they would not have been a problem, Adler said.

”They should have come to us months ago and suggested they need to do this,” Adler said. “This is the worst possible time to go riding through the maze of lobster gear.”

The state Division of Marine Fisheries has set up a public meeting to get the conversation started on how Tetra Tech plans will also affect fixed-gear fisherman – those long-range boats that put their gear in place for a catch, and then retrieve it later. Tetra Tech representatives and the developer, New Hampshire Transmission, will be at Gloucester High School on July 9 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the project.

Tetra Tech has agreed to limit the survey corridor 984 feet in width to minimize water space, use local fishing vessels to act as liaisons and assist in fishing communications and work With state Marine Fisheries to limit the displacement of gear. Adler noted it is against state law to damage or tamper with lobster catching equipment.

The cable route has been developed to avoid a sensitive rocky bottom, and the Sea Lion V arrived in Gloucester this week, according to Tetra Tech. Company officials did not return calls placed by the Times on Wednesday seeking comment on the story.

”It is our goal to work collaboratively with the fixed-gear fisherman to minimize the impact of the survey as well as accomplish our goal of conducting this important offshore work,” a prepared statement from Tetra Tech indicates.

Adler is not the only one concerned with Tetra Tech’s plans.

Mark Ring, a local lobstermen and chair of the Gloucester Fisheries Commission, also serves with the Massachusetts Lobstermen Association.

Ring said the Sea Lion V arrived earlier this week, but had hoped the work will not start until lobstermen learn more information about the project.

”It’s definite, they could not be here at a worse time of year,” he said.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.