NEW BEDFORD – Fishermen, fish processors and others warned on Thursday that fishing grounds will be lost with the construction of Vineyard Wind, and some expressed doubt that planned UMass Dartmouth research can happen fast enough to document the loss.
“We have this huge area we’re going to develop, and obviously we’ve got a pretty close timeline,” said Ed Barrett, a commercial fisherman from the South Shore. “How are you ever going to even come close to figuring out an impact? … I have zero faith in that.”
UMD’s School for Marine Science and Technology held the meeting to collect fishing industry comments as researchers begin to design monitoring studies that would occur before, during and after construction. Vineyard Wind has hired SMAST to help write a monitoring plan to submit to federal regulators, Professor Steve Cadrin said in an interview prior to the meeting.
Three similar meetings are planned for Rhode Island, Chatham and Martha’s Vineyard.
Katie Almeida, fishery policy analyst for The Town Dock, a squid dealer and processor in Rhode Island, said that for two years, her company has been asking for at least five years of pre-construction fishery monitoring, and the conversation has not gone any further.
“And now we’re down to what, a year?” she said. “How can we get any meaningful science and study done that’s going to actually hold up to any kind of scrutiny for baseline studies?”
People have been asking for a delay, she said.
Cadrin and Professor Kevin Stokesbury hosted the meeting. One of the problems they will face in designing a study, Stokesbury said, is that whatever survey methods they use before construction, they have to be able to use during and after construction, to eliminate variables.
Barrett suggested that with the billions of dollars at stake in offshore wind, tens of millions should be available for this kind of research – like at least $50 million.
Cadrin replied, “I don’t think that’s a ridiculous number.”
About 35 people attended the meeting, and well more than half appeared to come from the fishing industry. Also in the audience were professors, graduate students and public officials.
Active fishermen received $200 stipends for attending the meeting. Offering the incentive was something Vineyard Wind decided to try to attract more people to give their input, according to Crista Bank, fishery liaison for Vineyard Wind.
Vineyard Wind said in a news release that studies of the effects on fishing will seek to further public understanding about the effects of offshore wind development and inform future permitting and public policy decisions regarding wind energy facility siting.
Information collected by SMAST will be made available to the public to help inform future offshore wind permitting and public policy decisions.
Vineyard Wind won a contract in May for an 800-megawatt wind farm starting about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. The company is jointly owned by funds of the Danish investment company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables.
Vineyard Wind signed a lease on Oct. 22 to use the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, putting pen to paper at a ceremonial signing attended by Gov. Charlie Baker and a host of state legislators.
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