Fishing Industry Unites

A group calling itself the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance has formed with a mission to coordinate the fishing industry’s effort to ensure that the nascent offshore wind industry does not hinder its work. 

The group is made up of commercial fishermen from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States who have concerns about offshore wind farms. RODA will seek to coordinate efforts of the fishing industry, the offshore wind industry, and federal, state, and local governments to promote effective offshore development policies and to support more scientific research on the impacts of wind farms. 

Current regulatory efforts to assess the impact of offshore development on fisheries have been disconnected, according to the group, and past offshore projects have not adequately engaged with the fishing industry and the regional fishery management councils. As a result, the group says, offshore leases have been awarded to projects located in prime fishing grounds. On the South Fork, commercial fishermen are critical of the proposed siting of Deepwater Wind’s South Fork Wind Farm, approximately 35 miles off Montauk at the area known as Cox’s Ledge.  

“The current, splintered approaches to engaging fishing communities in the offshore wind leasing process are ineffective and inefficient, and the result is that critical fishing industry expertise is not being considered,” Anne Hawkins, the group’s legal and scientific counsel, said in a statement on Friday. “Fisheries need a unified effort to ensure they get the best possible offshore outcomes.”

One of the group’s priorities is to explore partnerships with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Atlantic states to develop collaborative scientific research. This would address a lack of peer-reviewed information on the effects of offshore development upon fisheries and fish. It would also be used to inform offshore developers and regulators in planning sites, awarding leases, designing operations plans, and developing mitigation strategies.

RODA is also working with its members to provide a unified voice on industry-wide issues, such as consideration of new offshore developments.

“The industry needs to speak as one,” said Robert Vanasse, RODA’s communications and media adviser. “The offshore wind energy industry, and regulators at the federal, state, and local levels need to hear clearly the concerns of participants in our domestic fisheries. We will work to foster the productive dialogue among those parties that is urgently needed and sorely lacking.”