Challenge Grant Program for Conservation Engineering Projects

The Challenge Grant Program for Conservation Engineering Projects is centered on supporting teams of researchers and members of the commercial fishing industry working on gear modification projects to reducing winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes amercianus) bycatchin the southern New England fishing area (defined as the area east of the Great South Channel west to New Jersey).  The work involves both small and large mesh fisheries, and scallop dredging, in which possible interactions with winter flounder may occur. 

The Challenge Grant Program focuses on bringing together the expertise and experience of fishermen, gear builders, and scientists to develop and test new gear designs or modifications of existing gear. The overall goals are to develop a set of tools that fishing vessel owners can employ to fish more selectively in accordance with their individual fishing vessel operations and practices to avoid unwanted winter flounder bycatch, and to provide some financial assistance to fishing vessel ownersinterested in installing promising gear types for testing onboard their own vessels.

The Challenge Grant Program is divided into three major components:

·        Proof of Concept Phase – Under this part of the Program the CFRF issues, through a competitive process, relatively small sub-awards (up to $30,000) for teams to test an idea to determine if it shows promise in reducing winter flounder bycatch. 

·        Full Proposal Phase – Teams who complete Proof of Concept projects that show promising results are invited to submit a request for full funding. Full funding enables teams to continue testing the gear modification or new design more rigorously, under a longer time frame.

·        Gear Trials Program – Under this part of the Program, the CFRF issues financial assistance through a voucher program to fishing vessel owners interested in testing new gear types on their vessels.  Currently program participants are able to use vouchers to pay for one or both of two gear types: 12” drop chain and large mesh belly panel.  This part of the Program also encompasses more quantitative field research for these two types of gear.  For more information on the Gear Trials Program, CLICK HERE

A Conservation Engineering Review Panel assists the CFRF with administering the Program.  Its members periodically convene to review proposals submitted, discuss research plans and results with project team members and to offer guidance, and to develop recommendations to the CFRF Board of Directors on whether a proposal should be funded.  The Conservation Engineering Review Panel Members included:  Arne Carr – Manager, Research at American Underwater Search and Survey, Ltd.  Henry Milliken – Research Fish Biologist, Protected Species Branch, NMFS/NEFSC  Mark Gibson – Deputy Chief, Division Fish & Wildlife, RI Department of Environmental Management  Fred Mattera – Vice-President, Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation; Owner/Instructor, Northeast Safety Training Co.

To view information on individual CFRF sponsored Challenge Grant Program projects, click below.