Small fishermen sound the alarm about plans for offshore wind farms


“There are so many things going against you as a commercial fisherman in the United States. And now these wind farms, it’s almost like it’s the last nail in the coffin.”

In this August 15, 2016 file file, a lift boat, to the right that serves as a work platform, gathers a wind turbine off Block Island, RI (AP Photo / Michael Dwyer, File)

Offshore wind development can save residents billions in energy costs, but small-scale fishermen call our limited understanding of how they can affect fisheries and marine habitats.

Vineyard Wind, an offshore development of Martha’s Vineyard, is an important part of President Joe Biden’s renewable energy plan. The 800-megawatt project would be the first wind turbine development in federal waters and is expected to cost nearly $ 3 billion. According to the project website, it will “generate clean, renewable, affordable energy for over 400,000 homes and businesses” in Massachusetts and reduce CO2 emissions by over 1.6 million tons per year.

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), a coalition of fisheries groups and companies, told the Associated Press in May that growth in offshore wind development could make it difficult to harvest species such as scallops, lobsters, squid and more.

“In the last decade, fishermen have attended offshore wind meetings when asked and made reasonable requests to be met only with silence,” said Anne Hawkins, RODA’s CEO. “From this silence comes a unilateral action and a clear indication that government officials care more about multinational corporations and energy policy than our environment, domestic food sources or American citizens.”

A recent WBUR piece dived into the issue, profiling David Aripotch, 65, an independent, regional fisherman. He has been fishing for almost 50 years – he bought his first boat in high school – and has weathered changes in fishing quotas and the many expenses of running his operation.

“There are so many things going against you as a commercial fisherman in the United States,” he said. “And now these wind farms, it’s almost like it’s the last nail in the coffin.”

Aripotch is concerned about where the turbines are going and how far apart they are. For example, the Vineyard Wind project sits in an area commonly fished for long-fished squid and scallops and, after an extensive community process, will place mills a mile apart.

Aripotch’s nets can track up to 1,500 feet behind the boat, and shredded nets are expensive to replace. One nautical mile equals about 6,000 feet, but he thinks maneuvering around a turbine would be nearly impossible.

“They’re talking about putting most of this waste in that area, and I need all the reasons I now have to live on,” Aripotch told WBUR. “To say that we can just fish in the wind farms is a mistake. It will not happen. ”

Hawkins told Guardian in July that RODA has experienced less involvement with fishermen since the start of the Biden administration.

“It certainly has the look of [developers] thinking they are going to be okay no matter what, ”she said. “The fishing industry feels very strongly that they still do not have a meaningful voice in the process or an authentic place at the table.”

Fishermen also point to the lack of research into the long-term effects of wind development on the marine environment, such as building noise driving fish away, funds become artificial reefs that change the species distribution, and modification of mid-Atlantic “cold pool” a large piece of cold water near the seabed that allows many species to thrive.

Aran Mooney, a biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, said Guardian that the long-term environmental impacts of major offshore wind developments have not been well studied in the United States

“There’s an OK amount of research funding going into this, but there definitely needs to be more to address these bigger issues,” Mooney said.

Although the current rules will allow fishing around wind development, fishermen are concerned that they are only a boat wreck away from a ban, and believe the government has underestimated the value of fishing grounds to move forward with projects.

“Many fishermen will not see a big impact, but fishermen who do can see a very big impact,” Chris McGuire, director of the marine program in the Nature Conservancy’s Massachusetts chapter, told WBUR. “It’s a hard part about this. You hear different opinions. And I think this is one of those situations where they are all true depending on where you sit. ”

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