NO FLUKE

BOEM's environment impact statement out for public comment

by CAPTAIN DAVE MONTI
Posted 2/3/21

It's time for the recreational fishing community to speak up and be counted in the planning of offshore wind farms. Throughout February public hearings on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the

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NO FLUKE

BOEM's environment impact statement out for public comment

Posted

It’s time for the recreational fishing community to speak up and be counted in the planning of offshore wind farms. Throughout February public hearings on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the South Fork Wind Farm will be held. All will get an opportunity to weigh in on BOEM’s work … what they missed, and what they got right on how the wind farm will impact the environment.

The South Fork Wind Farm, a fifteen turbine offshore wind farm being built by wind farm developer Ørsted (owner of the Block Island Wind Farm), will be built on Cox Ledge 20 to 25 miles southeast of Point Judith, Rhode Island.

Cox Ledge has long served as fertile fishing grounds for a small portion of the recreational fishing fleet for bottom fish such as cod and black sea bass as well as pelagic fish. Sharks and tuna are commonly targeted and caught on Cox Ledge. I said ‘small portion’ as according to NOAA most fishing trips occur within the three mile limit or just over it and this windfarm is 20 miles offshore.

Offshore wind and fishing can work together and coexist just as both have flourished at the Block Island Wind Farm. And, in the United Kingdom where wind farms have been built for years, science is telling us that fish abundance in wind farm areas is greater than in control areas outside of wind farms.

I am also a believer in the reef effort, as the science, my antidotal fishing experience and video footage at the base of the pylons at the Block Island Wind Farm tells us, new habitat and fish have been created, mussel growth has attracted scup, black sea bass and tautog and now recreational anglers are targeting large striped bass and blue fish around the base of the pylons.

As a nation we should identify ways that fishing and offshore wind can work together to benefit each other looking at projects as multi-use and multi-purpose projects rather than looking at them as single purpose projects.

According to a Providence Journal article "Fishermen, developers hit impasse over offshore wind farm plan" published on Feb. 2, 2021, some in the fishing community have cried foul, using this DEIS to hold up the project for mitigation posturing. This deprives all of us of badly needed renewable energy to help combat the negative impacts of climate change on fish, habitat and sea level rise on our coastal shores.

I agree all need to be compensated for fishing time lost during construction. However, commercial, for-hire charter boats and private anglers have fished in the Block Island Wind Farm area after construction.

NOAA has related that commercial fishing records show $ 2.3 million generated over the course of twelve years in the South Fork Wind Farm area. That’s about $197,000 on average per year so this is the number that should be used perhaps with a multiply for land based economic impacts.

We have solid commercial fishing numbers from NOAA, however, they have no recreational fishing impact numbers in this or any wind farm area.

There are ways to identify private anglers that fish in wind farm areas and what they catch. The New England Aquarium has done some great work on pelagic fishers and fish caught in wind farm areas, and electronic recording efforts in the nation have added insight and supplemental informational that gives fish mangers a better idea of who fishes in areas and what they catch. And, Ørsted has reached out to the angling community with recreational representatives, online Fishinars with hundreds of registrants and attendees as well as the development of an angler survey to try to identify who fishing in their wind farm areas and what the catch (a job that BOEM and/or NOAA should do, as they do for commercial fishing).

That said, let’s not hold up the development of renewable energy for all the people of the United States of America as we need it badly to combat climate change. Let us reimburse commercial, for hire and recreational fishermen reasonably for any true loss of fishing. And look at this DEIS and other environment impact statements to come on there true scientific merits and not mitigation posturing.

BOEM is seeking public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the South Fork Wind Farm Construction and Operations Plan at three virtual public meetings being held on Feb. 9 at 1 p.m., Feb. 11 at 5 p.m., and Feb. 16 at 5 p.m. More information, including the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, instructions for providing comments, and more information on the public meetings is available at www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/south-fork-wind-farm-virtual-meetings. Comments must be submitted by 11:59 PM on Feb. 22, 2021.

Registration for the virtual public meetings may be completed at https://www.boem.gov/renewableenergy/south-fork-wind-farm-deisvirtual-meetings or by calling (703) 787– 1662.

Senator Whitehouse ends "Time to wake up" climate speeches

I am a supporter of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and his efforts over the years to spotlight climate change and its impacts on our oceans, habitat, fish and fishermen. He has been a champion bringing attention to the climate change impact issues of warming water, fish movement, rising sea level, habitat degradation, ocean acidification, plastics and all types of pollution.

Last week he gave his last weekly climate change address after nine years and 279 "Time to Wake up" speeches. I was honored to be mentioned in one of his speeches two years ago for bringing attention to fish movement in our region due to climate change with my fishing writing. Warming water has brought species into our area in greater abundance such as black sea bass, scup and summer flounder while cold water fish such as winter flounder and American lobster have moved out of the area to colder, deeper water.

The Senator has always been a champion of strong conservation measures in our national fishing law, the Magnuson Stevens Act, to rebuild fish stocks responsibly while allowing fishing communities to grow.

Senator Whitehouse, thank you for being a climate change champion all these years. The fishing community supports your work and will continue to do so as our executive branch and congress move to implement badly needed climate change plans and policies to help preserve our oceans, nation and world.

Where’s the bite?

Freshwater. For licensing information and a list of trout stocked ponds in Rhode Island visit http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/fish-wildlife/freshwater-fisheries; and in Massachusetts visit www.mass.gov/freshwater-fishing-information.

Cod fishing. Party boats fishing for cod this winter (weather permitting include) the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com, the Seven B’s at www.sevenbs.com, and the Island Current at www.islandcurrent.com.

Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. He is a RISAA board member, a member of the RI Party & Charter Boat Association, the American Saltwater Guides Association and the RI Marine Fisheries Council. Forward fishing news and photos to Capt. Dave at dmontifish@verizon.net or visit www.noflukefishing.com.

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