Fishing Industry Must Be Considered

Many in the commercial fishing industry are frustrated with the pace of planning a planned wind farm in the Atlantic east of Montauk. The project, they say, will hurt their ability to make a living and they are feeling left behind by public officials and by public sentiment, which appears largely supportive. Aware of these concerns, Deepwater Wind, the company planning the turbines, wants to hire a handful of local representatives to help smooth the waters.

Balancing the needs of fishermen with the increasing call for renewable energy is a tough order. Seafood harvesters here have long expressed displeasure at what they see as excessive and unnecessary regulation. Now, with the industrialization of portions of their fishing grounds, they fear a slippery slope in which productive areas are put out of reach. Their concerns are important and have to be weighed carefully.

There are no easy or cost-free solutions to the soaring electricity demands of our modern society. Traditional fossil-fuel power plants are among the largest sources of damaging emissions. Wind is part of a less-polluting future that will also have to include the reduction of demand as well as land-based generation by solar and other “green” methods. 

Given the dire predictions on the effects of global warming, ocean sites for wind farms will have to be part of the answer. As the calls for tapping the consistent offshore winds grow, we must keep in mind the people who make their living from fishing. At this point, Deepwater’s search for the $50-an-hour representatives seems more for show than an indication of substantive concession to the industry’s legitimate concerns. 

Assuming that offshore wind will inevitably be utilized on a large scale, much more effort should be made to place turbines away from important fishing areas — including the site in Deepwater’s plans on the traditionally productive Cox’s Ledge. In addition, members of the commercial fishing industry who are displaced or suffer economic losses must be compensated, either through subsidies or tax breaks. 

The fishing fleet will enjoy the benefits of a greener planet, along with the rest of us, but it should not have to endure a disproportionate part of the cost.