. Oregon fishermen and seafood processors are frustrated that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the federal agency that oversees offshore wind development, is not responding to concerns they’ve raised about potential offshore wind projects on the state’s coast.
. The West Coast Seafood Processors Association, the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative and the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission claim their concerns about proposed offshore wind project call areas, areas where the agency is seeking public comment, and their impact on key fish populations due to the turbine’s electromagnetic field (EMF) cables, have been ignored.
. “BOEM has told us that if Oregon doesn’t want this, they will back off and pursue other offshore wind call areas, and we’ve made it pretty clear to them that Oregon doesn’t want this, and they’re still pushing forward,” Lori Steele, executive director of the seafood trade group West Coast Seafood Processors Association, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Oregon fishing industry is frustrated with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the federal agency that oversees offshore wind, which they say is not listening to concerns they’ve raised that proposed projects could harm marine life, hurt the economy and drive them out of business, locals told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The West Coast Seafood Processors Association, the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative and the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission claim their concerns about proposed offshore wind project call areas, areas where the agency is seeking public comment, and their impact on key fish populations due to the turbines’ electromagnetic field (EMF) cables, have been ignored by BOEM. They also worry about the impact offshore winds would have on their businesses and the entire state’s economy.
“BOEM has told us that if Oregon doesn’t want this, they will back off and pursue other offshore wind areas, and we’ve made it pretty clear to them that Oregon doesn’t want this, and they’re still pushing forward,” Lori Steele, executive director of the seafood trade group West Coast Seafood Processors Association, told the DCNF. “They are giving us nothing but lip service,” she added.
“BOEM is committed to continuing to work with all users of the ocean, including the fishing community,” John Romero, public affairs officer for BOEM’s Pacific office, told the DCNF. But members claim the agency is not working with them.
In April 2022, the agency proposed the Coos Bay and Brookings call areas for offshore wind projects, according to BOEM. In September 2022, the agency partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) to use a new spatial model to identify areas for offshore wind sites.
The country’s first floating offshore wind farms could soon be available in Pacific waters. A new NREL report outlines how @boem #windenergy leasing areas off the California coast could power over 1.5 million homes with #renewableenergy. https://t.co/gQs85aNvxS pic.twitter.com/RmsB9tOTgX
— NREL MTES (@NREL_MechTherm) June 3, 2022
Romero told the DCNF they use the tool to look for the best areas to develop wind projects within the previously selected areas.
“We have been arguing that they should start the process over utilizing the spatial mapping tool and look at the whole Oregon coast. Doing anything less is a flawed process; so far, they have refused,” Heather Mann, executive director of the nonprofit fishing trade association Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, told the DCNF.
Fishermen believe these areas will lead to the loss of fishing grounds for species like the Dungeness crab and Pacific whiting. The Dungeness crab is one of the most valuable and volatile species on the Oregon coast, according to Oregon Public Radio.
“Losing vital fishing grounds for crab or from one of the other fisheries that they depend on … that could be a tipping point for their business,” Tim Novotny, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, told the DCNF.
The commission is part of the state’s Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Commission Program.
Pacific whiting is sold into various markets, including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), for school lunches and food banks.
“My vessels have harvested hundreds of millions of pounds of Pacific whiting out of the current Oregon call areas; we will not be able to fish in and around turbine farms,” Mann said. “Some get their only healthy meal at school at lunch, and they are eating fish sticks made with MSC-certified sustainable whiting,” Mann added.
The organizations pointed to the impact of EMF cables attached to wind turbines impacting fish in the call areas. “Some species, like the Dungeness crab, are going to be right where these cables are constructed,” Steele said.
“BOEM has funded studies on EMF effects to rock crabs from subsea power cables,” Romero said. “Data and information from these studies, as well as studies on the broader marine environment, inform decisions concerning potential offshore renewable energy leasing consideration.”
Novotny pointed the DCNF to a 2017 BOEM-funded study showing that further study on EMF cables’ impact on marine life is needed. An October 2022 agency report states, “In order to support a conclusion that electrified cables have ‘no impact’ on these fisheries, BOEM needs to do additional work.”
“We are pressing for some further study regarding how the EMF from the cable may impact the crab,” Novotny said.
Other studies, such as one posted in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, show the cables change how brown crabs behave, reproduce, eat and migrate. This may lead to their stocks crashing, hurting not only crabbers’ businesses but also fishermen whose products consume crab.
Steele believes fish displacement from the projects could lead to seafood processors shutting their doors because they’re in a fixed location.
“If the call areas displace our entire south coast fishing fleet and put a bunch of our south coast fishermen out of business, our processors can’t shift their operations, and we’re just going to be out of luck,” she said.
The fisheries believe that in addition to putting fishermen out of business, there will be a ripple effect on the state’s economy.
“Commercial and recreational fishing is one of the largest economic contributors to Oregon coastal economies, by far,” Mann said. “You can’t throw a rock in a coastal community and not hit someone who has something to do with fishing,” she added.
“The impact will be felt by the families who rely on the economic impact that our fishery has on the state’s economy (including the thousands of jobs associated with our fishery through the processing, shipping, sales industries, etc.), as well as the nutritious and sustainable product that Oregonians and others have come to rely on for generations,” Novotny told the DCNF.
“As a third-generation fisherman, I can tell you that if this project continues, we’ll be out of business within the next three years,” James Lovgren, board member at Clean Ocean Action and retired commercial fisherman on the east coast, previously told the DCNF. (RELATED: New Jersey Environmental Groups Demand Answers From Biden Administration On Whale Deaths)
The Biden administration has promoted offshore winds as part of its green energy goals, even as environmentalists sounded the alarm about the projects’ potential dangers to whales. Within the last month, Biden proposed to more than double funding to expand NOAA’s offshore wind permitting activities.
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