New, high-tech Fish & Wildlife research boat ported in Kewaunee
KEWAUNEE – It’s not as big as a yacht, but it packs a lot of power in a small package.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s new fish research vessel Stanford H. Smith is calling Kewaunee its home port. It arrived June 27.
It can be spotted from an angle off State 42 on the north side of the Kewaunee River. The vessel is moored at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers site on Peterson Street and can be identified by a distinct U.S. Fish & Wildlife logo on its cream-colored cabin. The bow is dark brown. There are twin John Deere 500 horsepower diesel engines powering the 56-foot-long vessel.
If the captain spots a vehicle slowing down for a longer look, she is bound to give an extended wave from the deck. Her name is Stormi Sutter. Her seafaring navigation knowledge and experience is as big as her sweeping wave.
“I am a small-town girl," said Sutter, of Frankfort, Michigan. She will spend “research season’’ in Kewaunee.
“I have been sailing on the ocean for the Corps for 30 years," said the U.S. Navy veteran who is now employed with the wildlife service. “It’s a new boat and it will be new for the crew of 'fishermen' and the eventual biologists studying and researching the fish. Everybody’s excited about the boat."
Her maiden voyage is expected soon but doesn’t have an assigned launch date just yet.
The Stanford H. Smith was drafted by veteran research designer SeaCraft Design of Sturgeon Bay.
“This boat is on a scientific mission," said Mark Pudlo of SeaCraft. The design requirements required anything from fishing to acoustic data. “It is one of a kind,’’ Pudlo said, adding,“It is always nice to have a boat you’ve designed so close by."
Ted Dreska of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service office in New Franken said the Smith will be able to troll for fish.
“We have not been able to do this in the past,’’ said Dreska. “It will give us a better idea of the population of a variety of fish.
"For example, harvesting of lake herring was at its largest in the 1950s. It’s rebounding a bit. There’s some small population on the Michigan side (of Lake Michigan). We’ve planned for years to get a research boat like this."
Project leader Mark Holey of the Fish & Wildlife Service developed the concept of the technologically advanced vessel with SeaCraft Design. (Holey has since retired.) The Smith was built by Moran Iron Works of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Stanford H. Smith was named after the late biologist who spent his life researching ciscos, otherwise known as lake herring or chubs, in the Great Lakes. He was born in Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1920 and spent most of his research career based in Ann Arbor.
Cisco is a Northern American species of freshwater whitefish in the family Salmonidae. The thin fish is commonly a foot long and weighs about a pound. Five cisco species are now completely gone from Lake Michigan. Only the bloater chub and the lake herring remain.
According to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the populations of the ciscos generally plummeted during the middle of the 20th century because of overfishing; interactions with invasive species such as alewife, sea lamprey and rainbow smelt; and loss of spawning and rearing habitats. The invasive species preyed on and competed with northern ciscos in various life stages. It's also unclear what effect the annual stock of several million, non-native Pacific salmon in the Great Lakes had on the ciscos.
The Stanford H. Smith is expected to provide the answer.
Additionally, substantial environmental degradation in some parts of the range has contributed to the stresses on northern cisco populations, according to the Fishery Commission. The populations are likely more vulnerable to the effects of exploitation than previously believed, even at levels of harvest lower than what was once sustainable.
The cisco is also very sensitive to changes in temperature and levels of dissolved oxygen.
The research will also assess the success of restoration work for lake trout and other native species within the Great Lakes.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: New, high-tech Fish & Wildlife research boat ported in Kewaunee