By Doreen Leggett
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) published a Draft Wind Energy Area that extends across approximately 3.5 million acres of ocean off Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Most of the area is off the coast of Massachusetts.
A number of commercial fishermen, fishing industry organizations and others have commented on the Draft Wind Energy Area, which begins 23 miles east of Wellfleet. As the final wind energy area and proposed sale notice for interested companies will be published in the new year, we thought we would share some comments submitted for the draft.
Note: These are edited and excerpted to emphasize commercial fisheries concerns.
- (We are) greatly concerned about the impact of any offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine. Currently, the New England goal for renewable offshore wind energy is approximately 13 gigawatts which needs an estimated 1.3 million acres. Massachusetts currently has over 11,000 square miles of closed waters to the commercial lobster fleet and should BOEM take even more fishing grounds from them it will be financially devastating to the fleet. — The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association
- The Gulf of Maine is an extremely productive fishing area, bringing in approximately $123 million in commercial fisheries revenue annually from the federal waters in BOEM’s Gulf of Maine Planning Area alone. Of that total, approximately $46 million is landed by the multispecies groundfishing fleet, which is largely a Massachusetts-based fishery. The groundfish industry is an important part of the Massachusetts economy and contributes to the cultural identity of several Massachusetts ports including Gloucester, Boston, Scituate, Chatham, Provincetown, and New Bedford. — Rebecca Tepper, Secretary, Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
- We remain concerned about the proximity of the Draft Wind Energy Area to Georges Bank and consequences of development in this area. Several of the lease blocks adjacent to Georges Bank support high value fisheries (primarily Northeast multispecies, tuna, and herring) and sensitive deep sea coral habitats, including the deep sea coral area known as Lindenkohl Knoll. — Michael Pentony, Regional Administrator for the NOAA Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office
- (We are) opposed to offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine for a number of reasons. Historical data is not a reliable indicator of where, when, how, and for what fishermen will be active in the Gulf of Maine in the future. As climate change moves fish populations around, development in the Gulf of Maine has the potential to impact the flexibility that fishermen rely on to support a diverse fishing business. — Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association
- Section 1337(p)(4)(A) requires any activity taken under BOEM’s authority to provide for “safety.” However, the introduction of offshore wind in many of the identified areas will pose significant safety risks to fishing fleets. For example, developing the area encompassed by grid areas 4–6, A–B, in Figure 12, would force vessels leaving Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts to transit beyond their cultural fishing ground. This will push the fleet further offshore into more dangerous waters, which puts many vessels, particularly those under 70 feet, at risk. — New England Fishermen’s Stewardship Association
- Without exception, members of the Gulf of Maine commercial fishing industry state that it is premature to designate wind energy areas and that the region’s highly sensitive ecosystem suggest that it may be inappropriate to install offshore wind facilities at all. Far more research and integrative planning are needed, including:(1) the incorporation of fishermen’s ecological knowledge; (2) rectification of enormous procedural flaws; and (3) better understanding of the technology under consideration and its subsequent environmental impacts, before identifying and leasing areas for development. — Lane Johnston, Programs Manager, Responsible Offshore Development Alliance
- I do not think you should be considering putting any wind farms in the Gulf of Maine. The gulf does not need this pressure, you are putting these things in some prime fishing bottom. I’m not sure how you can think it’s a good idea to just shove these everywhere in the ocean before a larger study is done on the farm south of the islands. – Captain Jared Bennett, Cape Cod fisherman
- This project needs to be stopped before it ever begins. One of the most bountiful areas of our country is under attack from big wind and wind energy is not green energy. I am against any sort of industrial development in the Gulf of Maine, or any offshore waters in the United States. The impact from this scale of industrialization may still be unclear, but by the time the effects are realized it will be too late, the damage will be complete, catastrophic and irreversible. – Captain Robert Dutra, Cape Cod fisherman
- Despite our involvement and proactive stance, we have observed a recurring pattern where the concerns of the fishing community are overlooked or inadequately addressed in the rush to advance offshore wind energy projects. The current trajectory of development in the Gulf of Maine is particularly alarming. — Ed Barrett, Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership
- The Great South Channel is a giant nutrient rich source of food to the Gulf of Maine bringing with it food for all our commercially caught species as well as copepods that Right Whales feed on. We have no idea if the wind farms will change the flow of that, let alone what the noise and heat from the towers themselves will do. – Terry Alexander, Maine fisherman, who served on the New England Fishery Management Council from 2012 to 2021.
- The relatively short transit time between Wilkinson Basin and the ports of Gloucester, Boston and Provincetown allows for smaller vessels to optimize the appearance of short duration “weather windows” which may provide only a few hours of safe fishing opportunities between winter storm events. — Northeast Fishery Sector XII
- I own and operate a relatively small 42-foot boat. I regularly fish 5-7 hours (50-70 miles) from port. OSW development in these areas would permanently take away fishing grounds I have been fishing for seven years and put me in added danger while transiting the area. My concerns for these specific areas can be echoed by every other fisherman who has made a living on a certain piece of bottom. – Captain Joe Letourneau, F/V Lady Rebecca
- (We) understand that the New England states have their own decarbonization goals. We recognize that BOEM has the difficult task to achieve these ambitious wind energy goals. But these goals do not direct or justify the displacement of the historic groundfish fishery. — Northeast Seafood Coalition
- Small ports are not going to show up in the model and consequently it misses the economic effects on small fisheries and small ports. The marine fisheries throughout New England are deeply important to the social and economic well-being of many coastal communities in the Northeast United States and provide numerous benefits to our nation and the blue economy… Offshore wind development will disrupt current existing federal fisheries surveys which will result in a reduction in information, increased uncertainty in stock assessments, and result in poorly informed management decisions. The commercial leasing process should proceed on a timeline that sufficiently addresses the challenges associated with incomplete and inaccessible fisheries data. — Aubrey Church, policy director Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance.