A coalition of East Coast commercial fishing groups announced Thursday it has a new partnership agreement with Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind to improve communications between the seafood industry and offshore wind energy developers.
“This first-of-its-kind partnership will create an unprecedented opportunity for commercial fishermen to provide direct input to the wind energy industry on matters of significant interest to their businesses,” according to the statement issued in Boston by the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, originally organized by scallop fishermen and others to protect their interests as the federal government leases large offshore tracts to build wind turbines.
“Under this partnership, both industries will remain autonomous but provide a platform to move towards workable solutions,” according to RODA. “While non-binding in nature, it is RODA and Ørsted’s hope that discussions will prove beneficial to all parties involved.”
Denmark-based Ørsted is a longtime leader in the European wind power sector and is now bidding to develop a major array to supply New Jersey with power. But the state’s fishing industry, which include the long-established scallop and sea clamming fleets, has strenuously argued that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management must not approve any designs that will reduce their access to fisheries.
A core mission of the partnership is creating a joint industry task force to explore improved approaches to project siting, design, and operations. Organizers say their goal is to get a task force up and running with broad representation from fishermen from Maine to North Carolina.
Intense discussions between fishermen, BOEM and wind developers is pushing developers to change turbine array layouts, and BOEM has included requirmenets for safe transit lanes as a condition for building off southern New England and in the New York Bight.
“This new initiative will provide a more structured process for further collaboration between the two industries,” according to RODA.
“Partnering with Ørsted is a significant step forward as we look to strengthen our ongoing dialogue between commercial fishermen and offshore wind developers,” said RODA Executive Director Annie Hawkins. “RODA believes that we need to develop solutions for offshore wind energy and commercial fishing to coexist, and today’s announcement will support future sustainability for both industries.”
“We are proud to be the first offshore wind developer to partner with RODA, which is an important part to the future of offshore wind,” said CEO of Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind and President of Ørsted North America Thomas Brostrøm. “The fishing community must be considered as offshore wind development continues in the U.S. Through this partnership, we will be able to share our concerns in a productive way and develop practical solutions as we all seek to coexist and thrive for a better tomorrow.”
RODA is based on membership from Midcoast Maine to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, it claims the broadest geographic and gear-type range of any East Coast fishing industry membership organization active in offshore wind engagement. One of RODA’s primary goals is to ensure that the fishing industry’s input at-large is received, considered, and accommodated to the maximum extent possible in leasing, design, construction, and operations of new offshore developments.
“It is extremely vital that our nation’s fishermen are heard when offshore wind projects are being developed,” said RODA Chairman and Director of Sustainability at Atlantic Capes Fisheries Peter Hughes. “Ørsted has made it clear that they want to be partners with the fishing industry, and we are optimistic that our work with them will set a standard ensuring that fishermen have direct input into wind farm designs and ensuring that their concerns are fully embraced by developers.”
Ørsted and RODA strongly encourage other offshore wind energy developers and commercial fishermen to join this partnership in order to develop well-informed and enduring approaches to best practices and provide broad representation of the industries.
Fishermen who want to get involved with RODA or serving on the joint advisory panel as a member of the offshore wind development community can contact the group at [email protected].