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Lobstermen and Fishery Experts Challenge Biden Administration’s Offshore Wind Expansion

Amid the Biden administration’s push to expand offshore wind energy projects, New England lobstermen and fishery experts are raising concerns about the potential impacts on the commercial fishing industry and marine life. The administration’s plans to lease 2 million acres of ocean for offshore wind development, with the aim of producing 32 gigawatts of energy, have sparked opposition from groups like the New England Fishermen’s Stewardship Association (NEFSA) and the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA).

NEFSA, representing wild harvesters in fisheries across New England, filed a public comment opposing the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) leasing plans. They argue that the administration’s approach is rushed and lacks sufficient consultation with the fishing industry. Additionally, they claim that the plans are designed to insulate them from potential political changes, rather than being based on sound environmental and economic considerations.

The Gulf of Maine Wind Energy Area (WEA), a focal point of the leasing plans, has drawn particular scrutiny. NEFSA and RODA assert that the area overlaps with critical fishing grounds and habitats, posing risks to marine life such as the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Concerns have also been raised about the potential effects of wind farms on fish species and ocean temperatures, with NEFSA highlighting the lack of research on these impacts.

Critics argue that BOEM’s reliance on data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is flawed, citing inadequate baseline data and concerns about the qualifications of NOAA observers. They contend that BOEM lacks the necessary information to accurately assess the impact of wind energy development on fishing communities and marine ecosystems.

BOEM has defended its leasing plans as aligned with the administration’s goals for renewable energy expansion. However, opponents argue that the process lacks transparency and fails to adequately address the concerns of the fishing industry. They warn that the effects of offshore wind development could be irreversible and call for greater consideration of alternative approaches to renewable energy development.

As the debate over offshore wind expansion continues, lobstermen and fishery experts are urging policymakers to prioritize environmental sustainability and stakeholder engagement. They stress the need for a more inclusive and transparent decision-making process that takes into account the concerns of all stakeholders involved.

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