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Fishermen’s Alliance Highlights Offshore Wind Threat to Haddock, Lobster Fisheries in Gulf of Maine

August 8, 2023

An alliance of groups representing New England’s fishermen is highlighting scientific research that suggests offshore wind development could have “population-scale effects” on key fish and crustacean species in the Gulf of Maine, including electromagnetism-induced deformities in lobsters.

The New England Fishermen’s Stewardship Association (NEFSA) on Monday released an “Offshore Wind Research Summary” summarizing the existing scientific research on the environmental impact of offshore wind power development.

The scientific evidence, they believe, shows that offshore wind development would have unpredictable and potentially harmful consequences for key marine species, such as lobster and haddock.

“The studies featured in the Research Summary indicate that there is no scientific consensus as to the effects of offshore wind on ocean ecosystems and marine life,” said Jerry Leeman, NEFSA CEO and a longtime commercial fishing captain.

“We cannot industrialize the Gulf of Maine until we understand how the wind industry interacts with the fisheries that wild harvesters have stewarded responsibly for decades,” Leeman said.

The interaction between wind power development and marine species is generally understudied. That means there could be massive unintended or unforeseeable consequences from an unprecedented industrial project in the Gulf of Maine.

The Downeast Lobstermen’s Association, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, and the Maine Lobstering Union all signed on to a NEFSA letter urging state and federal officials to pause offshore wind development plans.

NEFSA wants to delay any offshore wind development until an environmental review of its impact on the Gulf of Maine can be conducted.

The fishermen’s plea comes on the heels of Maine Gov. Janet Mills’ recent signing of a bill that will lead to the construction of a port on the coast of Maine designed to facilitate a proposed offshore wind buildout.

Among the studies the fishermen’s alliance wants to draw attention to is one from the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was released by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in March.

The 388-page document attempts to synthesize existing research conducted around how offshore wind installations will impact fisheries.

The research highlighted in the report shows that large cables that lie on the seabed and bring electricity from offshore turbines to land generate electromagnetism that cause several problems for commercially important fish and crustacean species.

“The transmission of electricity through [offshore wind] inter-array and export cables results in the emission of electromagnetic fields into the marine environment that electro- and magnetoreceptive species may respond to,” the researchers state. “There is a concern that these emissions may disrupt natural electromagnetic cues, from which receptive species may derive important ecological information.”

According to the researchers, both haddock larvae and the American lobster can experience negative consequences from electromagnetic fields.

In a 2022 experiment, scientists from the United Kingdom found that electromagnetic fields stunted the growth of lobsters and caused deformities.

A separate 2022 study found that electromagnetism caused strong and definitive changes in the behavior of haddock larvae, which use Earth’s magnetic field to navigate.

The researchers wrote that subjecting populations of haddock to sustained electromagnetic fields could have “population-scale implications for haddock in the wild.”

The research highlighted by NEFSA also shows that turbine fields may raise ocean temperatures.

Ironically, rising ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Maine is one of the reasons environmentalists in Maine believe offshore wind power is needed.

“Lobster and haddock are the commercial backbone of New England’s fisheries,” said Dustin Delano, NEFSA COO and a fourth-generation lobsterman.

“Foreign green energy companies will endanger New England’s working people and its maritime heritage unless they take the time necessary for careful study of our fisheries and their plans for development,” Delano said.

NEFSA fears that a hasty rush to build offshore wind turbines in the fishing waters they rely upon could devastate fish and lobster populations, which would put them out of business and disrupt global food supplies.

The group is currently running mobile billboard advertisements in Augusta and Boston to build opposition to offshore wind power schemes in the New England region.


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