DELMARVA— Some fishermen out of Ocean City claim their gear is being damaged by the company that wants to build a wind farm off the coast. One fisherman is claiming more than a hundred thousand dollars worth of lost equipment.
Jimmy Hahn has been in the business for 30 years. He said multiple pots have been damaged and towed by US Wind, who denies those allegations.
Hahn showed WRDE a video he shot with his phone when he was out in his boat monday. He said it shows US Wind boats off the coast of Maryland. Commercial fishermen out of Ocean City said they are fighting for their livelihoods against the company, which is actually owned by a larger Italian firm.
“Ever since I’ve set my gear, they’ve been in my pots every single day,” he said. “They were in it on Friday, they were in it a little bit on Sunday, and then we had the whole incident on Monday.”
US Wind is Maryland’s offshore developer. They currently have two contracts with the state—hoping to power 380,000 homes with clean energy. Senior Director of US Wind External Affairs Nancy Sopko, said crews have been out in the ocean for several months, as part of a federal requirement.
“One of the surveys that we have to do is a geophysical work, and that is vessels that tow equipment to map the seafloor and get a good view of what the seafloor looks like so we can understand where to put turbines, to again, minimize and avoid conflicts,” she said.
The company uses what is known as ‘AIS’ tracking, which is an Automatic Identification System. Hahn said that is the reason he gave the company coordinates to his equipment, to precisely avoid this very issue he is dealing with.
“The boat…grabbed ahold of our pot and drags it along the bottom and just pulls the whole pot completely apart,” Hahn explained. “So this is an $80 pot that ends up being absolutely worthless to us.”
Hahn said these pots are completely handmade and are usually built in the winter months to prepare for the upcoming fishing season.
US Wind Director of Marine Affairs Ben Cooper however, said they don’t believe the company is at fault.
“This gear, damaged, we’re not sure that this one pot was damaged by our gear, we don’t think so ‘cause we’ve been super vigilant to avoid it,” Cooper said.
Sopko also explained that the company is in constant talks with liaisons who are meant to facilitate communication between both parties.
“Onboard this 50-foot survey vessel is a onboard fishery’s liaison that can help with real-time communications with fishermen and can help spot fishing gear that is in the area,” Sopko said. “And once identified, if identified, can maneuver out of the way and avoid conflict; the last thing we want to do is conflict with any fishing gear.”
Hahn, who has already filed several formal claims against US Wind and the other wind farm company in the past, Orsted, said he just wants to see some accountability take place.
“They have a 24 square-mile area to survey, my pots are in one tini, tiny area… its like they’re bullying the fisherman,” he said.
Jimmy Hahn is still waiting to hear back from US Wind, and hopes to be fully reimbursed, over $150,000 in damages for the gear he said was lost.
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