Fishermen in nearly 100 boats from the midcoast gathered in waters near Monhegan Island on Sunday to protest the development of offshore wind energy infrastructure, including an array of wind turbines proposed by the state.
Boats came from towns including South Bristol, Boothbay, Port Clyde, Tenants Harbor, Vinalhaven, Friendship, Spruce Head, Monhegan and Owls Head, Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, told Mainebiz in a subsequent email.
The Brunswick association is an industry-based nonprofit that supports and advocates for Maine’s community-based fishermen. The protest was organized by the fishermen themselves, not by an industry association, he noted.
“We fully support their efforts,” he added.
Martens continued, “Fishermen and waterfront communities throughout Maine are increasingly concerned at the speed at which offshore wind development is taking place in Maine. Maine has funding to create a full roadmap to better ensure that our fisheries and fishing communities are respected and protected, yet we seem to be full steam ahead on putting 700-foot industrial structures out on the ocean.
“We need clean energy, but just because wind is renewable, doesn’t mean it’s green and it doesn’t mean it is the right choice for Maine.”
The protest was held in response to plans by the Governor’s Energy Office to install an array of up to 12 wind-energy turbines, to be used for research demonstration and to cover up to 16 square miles off Maine’s southern coast.
In January, a coalition of fishing communities sent a letter to Gov. Janet Mills expressing concern about the project. The coalition included the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Maine Lobster Dealers Association, Maine Lobstering Union, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries and Downeast Lobstermen’s Association. The coalition was joined by a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, Responsible Offshore Development Alliance.
In a March 17 blog post to the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association website, Friendship fisherman Dustin Delano, Maine Lobstermen’s Association’s second vice president, wrote, “In recent weeks, many fishermen along the Maine coast have discovered a new fear to add to their lengthy list of stressors – that they will be replaced by 700-plus-foot wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine.”
Although the Department of Marine Resources and the Governor’s Energy Office have engaged in communication with the industry, he wrote, fishermen still believe their concerns are not being heard, particularly due to the virtual nature of the meetings as a result of the pandemic.
“As a result, many fishermen who live in rural areas without access to good broadband, and fishermen lacking the knowledge to use online platforms, are being excluded from both conversations and access to information,” Delano wrote. “They are completely in the dark about something that has the potential to destroy their future.”
He added, “Fishermen and their communities do not want to be replaced by giant floating turbines.”
In January, state Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, introduced LD 101, an Act to Prohibit Offshore Wind Development in the Gulf of Maine. The proposed legislation targets “community-based offshore wind energy projects, deep-water offshore wind energy pilot projects, offshore wind energy demonstration projects and offshore wind power projects.”
The state has identified an “area of interest” for its research project southeast of Casco Bay.
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