Saturday, April 17, 2010

New DNR Lake Michigan research ship boost for fisheries

MANITOWOC – Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank and Burger Boat Company today signed a contract for the construction of a 60-foot research vessel to support expanded study and survey work of the Lake Michigan fishery.

“This day is the result of tremendous partnerships and efforts, and the dedication of many,” Frank said at a morning news conference at the local company’s shipyard at the Port of Manitowoc. “This new boat, made by this nearly 150-year-old Wisconsin manufacturer, will be a state-of-the-art vessel with features to support expanded work by our fisheries experts of Lake Michigan.”

Burger Boat Company president James Ruffolo participated in the ceremonial signing. Founded in 1863, Burger Boat Company is the oldest custom yacht builder in the nation and the oldest functioning company in the city.

“This is a big day for Wisconsin’s $13 billion tourism industry which includes the very popular sport fishery of Lake Michigan, our licensed commercial fishing operations and their employees and the science of healthy resources and water,” Frank said.

Named after the fish genus that includes lake whitefish, lake herring and bloater chubs, the new RV Coregonus will be capable of gill netting and allowing fisheries staff to continue the work done on the previous research ship – the RV Barney Devine.

However, the RV Coregonus also have expanded features including onboard laboratory equipment, water tight compartments and a semi-planning hull along with capabilities for scuba operations.

The Coregonus was designed by SeaCraft Design in Sturgeon Bay and will be built by Burger Boat Company for a cost of $1.9 million. Funding for the boat will come primarily from license revenues placed in the segregated fisheries account with an additional $500,000 from the Salmon Stamp revenues.

“Although the RV Barney Devine was well-maintained, it is now nearly 75 years old and become technologically obsolete with an increasing maintenance expense,” Frank said of the previous research ship also built by Burger Boat. “There have been many advances in fisheries research since 1937 and the old boat is not longer suitable. The new vessel also will incorporate many safety features and improve vessel and crew safety.”

DNR fisheries staff worked closely with SeaCraft to develop the design that would maintain the ability to use gill nets during all seasons but in the most extreme sea conditions, while expanding its capabilities for research. Its capabilities include trawling and deploying hydro-acoustic equipment.

The Barney Devine had a top speed of less than 10 knots, which meant a travel time from Sturgeon Bay to Milwaukee of 15 to 16 hours. The Coregonus will be able to travel 20 knots, decreasing the travel time and increasing efficiency.

The Coregonus, which the company anticipates to build with current employees, is expected to be ready for use in 2011.

Sport fishing in Wisconsin waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior generated $419 million in economic activity and supported 5,000 jobs in Wisconsin alone, based on a comprehensive survey conducted in 2006 by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Census and an economic analysis done by the American Sportfishing Association.

Wisconsin also sustains a commercial fishery with about 60 licensed commercial operations on Lake Michigan and a smaller number on Lake Superior.

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