US Senators Seek Better Fishermen Involvement

U.S. Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, and Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, of Rhode Island, have called on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to consider fishermen's interest earlier in the siting process for offshore wind.

In the letter, the Senators urge BOEM to continue to adopt policies for the offshore wind leasing and permitting process that include fishermen and other marine stakeholders early in order to minimize spatial conflicts and reduce the risk of economic harm to the fishing industry.

According to the signatories, as developers lease areas in federal waters for the first time, existing stakeholders must be thoroughly consulted both before and after leases are granted.

The Senators also emphasized that although BOEM has tried to improve communication between the fishing industry and wind developers, many of the constituents consider the existing efforts to be ineffective.

“Our states understand that smart planning and consultation with stakeholders, particularly the fishing industry, will allow offshore wind to flourish in the United States, protect important ocean resources, and maintain access for existing users. However, we have heard from our constituents who believe that BOEM is not currently taking this balanced approach. This is particularly true with respect to the fishing industry,” the letter writes.

BOEM was asked to provide a briefing on exactly how it has consulted with fishermen and other fisheries experts both before and after granting leases.

The U.S. agency is called on to explain which types of location-specific data it used to understand where fishermen fish and transit, as well as at what points in the siting and leasing process is location information used to inform lease locations.

Among a number of questions, the Senators also want to know what are the avenues for the public to provide feedback for projects that are beyond the leasing stage, and how was NOAA Fisheries consulted to identify which ports are most affected by individual leases.

The Senators request a briefing to be scheduled by 4 January 2019 to discuss the matter.