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Trouble in the wind: Offshore turbine farms complicate fishing, shrimping  

Credit:  Shrimpers see obstacles that will make their jobs tougher, more dangerous; regulators vow to listen | By Tristan Baurick, Staff Writer | Nov 27, 2021 | www.nola.com ~~

POINT JUDITH, R.I. – Robert Ballinger watches every inch of a long green net as it unfurls from a spool on the back of this boat, the Lena Pearl, one of dozens of fishing vessels packed into a tiny harbor in America’s smallest state. He’s concentrating, looking for any tears or debris that might cause trouble next time he’s trawling off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

He’d prefer to focus on small problems like these and ignore the big one on his mind: the growing array of wind turbines sprouting along the coast. He wouldn’t have much issue with them, he said, if they didn’t happen to work best in the same deep, wind-swept waters where he finds his most lucrative catch.

“Where they want to put those turbines is right where all these are during the summer,” he said, grabbing a squid from the deck and giving its slimy, silvery body a frustrated squeeze. “And the amount they want to put in – it’s mind-boggling. It will change the entire squid season.”

Squid is to Rhode Island what lobster is to Maine and shrimp is to Louisiana. More than 22 million pounds are landed each year, making it by far Rhode Island’s biggest fishery, and almost all of it comes through the harbor at Point Judith. Ballinger fishes a variety of species – whiting, fluke, butterfish – but he makes half his money catching squid between July and October.

The country’s first offshore wind project, the Block Island Wind Farm, was built about 14 miles south of here in 2016. A much larger one, known as Vineyard Wind, is set to begin construction about 40 miles to the east, near Martha’s Vineyard.

By the end of the decade, some 2,000 turbines could be clustered along the coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina, according to the Biden administration, which is expediting wind farm permitting to reach its goal of generating 30,000 megawatts from offshore wind by 2030.

Where offshore wind advocates see one of the best options for curbing climate change, fishers see a maze of obstacles that will make their jobs tougher and more dangerous.

“Wind farms are getting a tremendous political push, whereas the people who fish are being crushed,” said Greg Matarones, president of the Rhode Island Lobstermen’s Association.

Now, offshore wind developers are starting to turn their attention to the Gulf of Mexico, where the offshore oil and gas industry has cultivated a ready and willing workforce and easily adaptable ports and other infrastructure.

But the Gulf is also the source of 70% of the country’s shrimp. Of the more than 200 million pounds of shrimp netted in the Gulf each year, much of it was caught in the waters off the Louisiana and Texas coasts. These prime fishing waters happen to overlap with the areas of the Gulf that have the greatest potential for wind energy development.

So the conflicts in the East may soon be headed south, said Acy Cooper, a Venice shrimper and president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association.

Source:  Shrimpers see obstacles that will make their jobs tougher, more dangerous; regulators vow to listen | By Tristan Baurick, Staff Writer | Nov 27, 2021 | www.nola.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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