Some opponents of a proposed wind farm off the coast of Long Beach Island cite the continued lack of available data specific to the Mid-Atlantic Bight and its impact to the commercial and recreational fishing industries. On June 3, Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind and Rutgers University announced a multi-phase modeling study in collaboration with the surfclam industry.
The goal of the study, according to Atlantic Shores officials, is to better understand how Mid-Atlantic wind farm developments anticipated over the next three decades, along with climate change, will affect the distribution and abundance of surfclams.
“The study will also examine the economics of the Surfclam Fishery within the Atlantic Shores Lease Area and the greater Mid-Atlantic Bight,” according to a June 3 statement in which Atlantic Shores and Rutgers University announced the study launch.
Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind is one of two companies that could potentially build the state’s second wind farm, in part off the coast of LBI. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is expected to make an announcement on granting approval for the second wind farm sometime this month.
Atlantic Shores is a 50-50 partnership between Shell New Energies US LLC and EDF Renewables North America. It was formed in December 2018 to co-develop nearly 183,353 acres of leased sea area on the Outer Continental Shelf, located within the New Jersey Wind Energy Area.
The closest western, or inshore, boundary of the lease site is 10 miles from Barnegat Light and 9 miles from Holgate. The lease area has the potential to generate 3 gigawatts of offshore wind energy. If approved by the BPU, Atlantic Shores plans to start onshore construction of substations in 2024 and offshore construction by 2025.
“We are proud to continue building on our valuable partnership with Rutgers University as well as our collaboration with the commercial fishing industry. We appreciate the willingness of the surfclam industry to actively participate with us in this effort,” said Jennifer Daniels, development director at Atlantic Shores. “This study is the latest in our continued commitment to lead with science by making our lease area available to researchers and mariners alike. It’s through the application of tools like this simulator that we can responsibly develop our lease area and deliver renewable energy to New Jersey communities with minimized effects on the fishing industry.”
The study will build off Rutgers’ existing spatially explicit, ecological, agent-based fisheries and economic simulator. Developed in conjunction with the surfclam industry and fisheries managers, including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the simulator replicates the surfclam fishery in the Mid-Atlantic Bight. It models the surfclam stock biology along with fishery captain and fleet behavior, federal management decisions, fishery economics, port structure and now, wind farm development.
“We are looking forward to having our model take this next step towards future casting,” said Daphne Munroe, the study’s principal investigator and associate professor of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers’ School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “The strength of our modeling approach lies in the information and advice we are generously provided by advisers, in particular the New Jersey Surfclam Fleet, who have deep working knowledge of the systems we are trying to stimulate.”
Rutgers partnership with Atlantic Shores will increase the simulator’s ability to gauge fisheries and wind development activities from present day to three decades in the future. In addition to looking at the changing conditions of the Mid-Atlantic Bight, the model will run scenarios that include the presence of Atlantic Shores’ proposed portfolio of projects within its lease area, according to the company’s June 3 statement.
“Atlantic Shores’ goal is to better understand the changes in surfclam habitat and abundance within its lease area and more accurately understand and mitigate any potential effects on the surfclam industry from the construction and operation of the Atlantic Shores future proposed projects,” the company said.
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