The Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF), representing the majority of full-time Atlantic scallop limited access permit holders, submitted comments earlier this month on an unsolicited request by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) for a commercial wind energy lease approximately 12 miles offshore Long Island, New York. The proposed wind farm would overlap lucrative scallop grounds, creating major concerns for scallopers who routinely transit and conduct fishing operations in the area.
Submitted on behalf of the Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Collaborative (Collaborative), NYPA’s proposal covers 127 square miles of the outer continental shelf – an area more than three times the size of Manhattan. Although the proposed lease overlaps crucial Atlantic scallop fishing grounds, NYPA conducted little, if any, outreach to the scallop industry – or the commercial fishing industry in general – prior to submitting its request.
NYPA’s request joins a lengthy list of similar projects along the Atlantic coast, most notably others affecting the Atlantic scallop fishery off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Considered cumulatively, these projects pose significant obstacles to commercial fishing operations. For instance, the combined offshore spatial consumption of the proposed Massachusetts Wind Energy Area and the Rhode Island and Massachusetts Wind Energy Area alone covers 1,561 square miles.
As the list of proposed offshore wind developments increases, so too do conflicts with Atlantic scallopers, whose fishing grounds are becoming increasingly threatened by the ever-growing number of wind farms offshore the Atlantic seaboard. Also at stake are scores of families and communities, both directly employed by the scallop fishery and in on-shore support businesses and ancillary professions. In 2011, the nationwide value of scallops landed exceeded half a billion dollars, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries in the United States 2011.
FSF outlined concerns that NYPA’s proposed offshore wind farm will have detrimental impacts on the scallop fishery, one of America’s most valuable fisheries, notably creating operational and navigational hazards that will hamper fishing operations. The construction of wind turbines and other mechanisms associated with NYPA’s proposal will inhibit scallopers’ ability to continue their operations in the area. Concerns include radar interference and navigational obstacles, as vessels attempt to dodge wind turbines and underwater electrical cables. Indeed, the Collaborative’s own “fatal flaw analysis” concluded that the proposed lease may generate adverse affects for the regional fishing industry.
Should NYPA’s lease be approved, the ensuing development, which could contain up to 194 wind turbines, is sure to interfere with the scallop fishery’s operations..
NYPA’s proposal, among other emerging wind farm projects, will fundamentally alter the marine environment in the areas sought for wind energy development. FSF explained, “The proposed project may crush scallops, affect scallop spat [juvenile] settlement patterns, and change the benthic [sea floor] environment.” Without definitive scientific findings on the long term environmental consequences of such disruptions, the extent to which these plans could permanently damage marine ecosystems remains unclear. It is certain, however, that the construction of associated equipment and mechanisms will require substantial disruption of key scallop fishing grounds, directly impacting those that rely on this resource.
The NYPA’s lease request was submitted to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM), the body overseeing such proposals. FSF’s letter was in response to BOEM’s request for public comments.
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