Members of New England’s commercial fishing industry who feel they’ve been cast aside in the rush toward offshore wind took their concerns straight to the top of the Trump administration Tuesday in a Seaport sit-down with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
“The fishing industry is not anti-wind. But the fishing industry’s not been part of this process from the beginning,” said Lund’s Fisheries Chairman Jeff Reichle. “Let’s do it the right way.”
Industry representatives voiced a raft of concerns with offshore wind, including the safety of commercial and recreational boaters navigating the waters, issues towing fishing nets through the farms and the potential for disrupting marine life.
Bernhardt said he’s not looking to “whack people with an unnecessary burden if we can avoid it” but noted he’s “very eager” to pursue offshore wind “in a way that works.”
“In the West, we do wind. You know where we don’t put a windmill? In the middle of a highway,” Bernhardt said. “I need a development program that is done in a way that is sustainable for everybody.”
The industry roundtable came a day after a bipartisan group of 40 state lawmakers wrote a letter in support of the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind I project they said could be an economic “game changer” for the region. Federal review of the wider impacts of the offshore wind industry has delayed the Vineyard Wind project. A decision on the final permit is expected in December.
Thomas Nies, executive director of the New England Fishery Management Council, said business leaders raised several issues about the Vineyard Wind project but cast a wider net about the overall impacts of offshore wind on their livelihoods.
“Secretary Bernhardt is listening and plans to listen to the fishing industry. Does that mean every decision is going to go the way the fishing industry wants it to? I’m not going to go that far,” Nies said. “But I think it’s important he clearly understood the issues that we’re raising … and wants to have a discussion.”
The discussion on offshore wind comes at a time when the fishing industry is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic that sank seafood sales, disrupted supply chains and shuttered restaurants that typically snap up product.
“People have primarily been in survival mode,” said Robert Nagle, vice president of the Boston-based John Nagle Co. seafood wholesaler. “Some businesses have been able to adapt a little bit better than others, but there’s a lot of uncertainty in Massachusetts.”
State House News Service contributed to this report.
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