NEW BEDFORD – Offshore wind developers spent the majority of a 3-hour meeting Monday attempting to win over the local commercial fishing industry.
For much of the meeting, the fishermen in attendance rolled their eyes, scoffed at various PowerPoint slides and even went as far as to say offshore wind is unwanted.
“Nobody wanted this,” one fisherman out of Point Judith said. “Nobody wanted the problems. We were assured there would be none. And here we are.”
Twenty members of the Fisheries Working Group on Offshore Wind Energy sat around a table at SMAST East hoping to solve various issues between the two ocean-based industries.
The meeting, which featured representatives from Deepwater Wind, Vineyard Wind, and Bay State Wind and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, was called to discuss a plan for an independent offshore wind and fisheries science advisory panel.
“It’s not too late,” said David Pierce of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. “As much as we’re working on, now, can be offered up to BOEM and to the different companies specific to the search of projects and specific search of scientific endeavors. We need the research. And we need research to help us address the questions that are being asked by the industry as well as ourselves.”
The science advisory panel would act independently to identify fishery-related scientific and technical gaps related to the future development of offshore wind projects. The panel could also identify offshore wind’s effects on the fishery within Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The panel’s members have yet to be comprised. Debate regarding who should be on the panel began Monday. Everyone agreed experts from all backgrounds should have a seat at the table.
“The fishermen ask very different questions, they raise very different hypotheses than scientists,” said John Williamson, a fishery liaison for Bay State Wind. “It’s very important to do this together.”
Offshore wind developers would contribute funds to the panel. A third-party fiduciary would receive and manage the funds. It was suggested by the government that the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation could act as that fiduciary. The hypothetical was received with the strongest opposition of the meeting.
“I think it’s just the perception,” said Beth Casoni of the Massachusetts Lobsterman’s Association.
Ron Smolowitz, a technical adviser for the Fisheries Survival Fund, said “No” a few times to the idea.
Discussion closed nearly an hour beyond its scheduled conclusion. Another meeting is being planned within the next two months.
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