Fishermen fear encroachment from offshore wind projects
STONINGTON – Fishermen in Connecticut and along the northeastern coast of the United States who have struggled to survive in the face of regulations to rebuild stocks of cod, plaice and other species say they face a another threat: offshore wind projects.
Some say they are not opposed to green energy projects, but want more input on the potential effect of the projects on their business.
“Don’t put it on top-notch fishing grounds,” Joe Gilbert, owner of four fishing and scallop boats based at Stonington’s Town Dock, told The Day. “We are running forward with all these projects, without any science. It has never been done on such a scale anywhere on earth.”
Gilbert and others said many projects are looking to lease large tracts of ocean floor in prime fishing grounds. This can cause additional problems when the turbines are too close together, making it difficult for tow boats to stay separate from each other, especially in bad weather.
This is another challenge for an industry that has had to adapt and reinvent itself over the years due to strict regulations on how much it can catch. Fishermen now feel their voice is not being heard in the offshore wind debate.
The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a national coalition of members of the fishing industry, sent a letter last month to the Federal Office of Ocean Energy Management, the body overseeing the projects, instructing the current process. of licensing for offshore wind projects “does not provide any meaningful opportunity to include the needs of sustainable seafood harvesting and production in climate change mitigation strategies.”
The alliance alleged that the federal government “hadn’t even considered any mitigation measures” it proposed before approving the Vineyard Wind I project last week, the country’s first major offshore wind project that requires the construction of 62 turbines south of Martha’s Vineyard off Cape Cod.
A spokesperson for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management told The Day that the fishing community can communicate their concerns directly during the standard environmental review process. Stephen Boutwell added that the office also requires companies leasing ocean-floor areas to develop communication plans and hire liaison officers to chat with fishermen.
The developers of Vineyard Wind have agreed to pay commercial fishermen $ 37.7 million in compensation for future losses, The Day reported.