Washington, DC - In a letter submitted to President Donald Trump on Thursday, February 7, 2019, Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) Executive Director Jim Donofrio requested an immediate halt on all work on proposed industrial wind farms along the Atlantic Coast. The request was prompted in response to the issuance of 6 commercial offshore wind leases by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) since 2016 along the Atlantic Coast. BOEM is the federal agency under the Department of Interior that oversees offshore renewal energy development in federal waters. Donofrio called for work being conducted under this permits to be halted citing a failure of the agency to fully investigate and assess the impacts that offshore wind energy generation facilities will have on valuable commercial and recreational fisheries.
In his letter, Donofrio articulated the fishing community's concerns with the pace at which the leases have been issued and the lack of a comprehensive ecological evaluation on the potential impacts that offshore wind development may have on fish stocks. While the idea that adding new structure in the form of wind turbines to the ocean, particularly in areas where the bottom is comprised of fine sand, will attract fish and create new fishing opportunities for anglers, one cannot over-look the literature coming out of countries that have aggressively developed their coast lines with wind turbines. Studies from Denmark and other European countries find that fish stocks display measurable behavioral and migratory responses in presences of noise (vibrations created by the massive blades) and electromagnetic fields (EMF) produced by the turbines and the miles of underwater cables required to transmit the electricity generated to shore.
Applying these findings to the lease areas proposed for development off of Atlantic coast the US, there is the very real threat that once installed, offshore wind farms may disrupt north/south and inshore/offshore migrations of important fish stocks such as striped bass, bluefish and pelagics. It is also unknown how the inshore/offshore movements of demersal species such as summer flounder will be impacted. It would be extremely unfortunate to build these facilities in hast only to find out that EMF from the transmission cables disrupts the seasonal movements of summer flounder into Mid-Atlantic bays and estuaries. RFA finds that associated risks far outweigh the benefits of offshore wind and demands that development be halted so that all potential impacts can be fully vetted.
"The companies that are pursuing these projects have no legal obligation or regard for American commercial or recreational fishermen who have been on these grounds earning a living for decades," explained Jim Donofrio. "Our jobs and our fisheries must come first."
In a recent article included in Making Waves, RFA's newsletter, RFA outlined the numerous concerns associated with offshore wind facilities. Specifically, the article outlined the economic cost of offshore wind which falls on the backs of rate payers. In many of these projects, the vast majority of the capital comes from rate payer subsidies, federal and state assistance and tax credits, not from private sources. Offshore wind has proven to be one of the most expensive forms of electric generation but companies, many of which are foreign, are scrambling to secure leases because US tax payers will foot the bill for the planning, construction and operation of their facilities and then in turn, the companies can sell the electricity back to rate payers at an above market rate.
Also cited in the February 7th letter to President Trump are the navigational and safety at sea issues associated with the proposed offshore wind facilities. The United States Coast Guard and the United States Marine Corp have both expressed concerns that wind turbines would interfere with their missions along the East Coast.
BOEM has conducted 7 competitive lease sales and now has 12 active wind development areas with at least one in each state from Massachusetts to North Carolina. Total lease areas off the Atlantic Coast are expected to exceed 1.4 million acres excluding the submerged lands developed and used for transmission lines. Make no mistake, once fully built, off-shore wind stands to have a significant and permanent impact on our fisheries.
"There is absolutely no reason we should be rushing to develop offshore wind with the US producing more clean, domestic natural gas than ever," stated Donofrio. "BOEM needs to slow down and carefully review all the impacts associated with offshore wind before jeopardizing our marine resources and straddling US tax payers with higher electric bills."
For more on the Recreational Fishing Alliance, visit www.joinrfa.org