A U.S. organization representing the seafood industry announced on Tuesday, 26 March, that it reached a 10-year agreement with two key federal agencies regarding the development process for offshore wind energy projects in the Atlantic Ocean.
Under the terms of the memorandum of understanding signed by NOAA Fisheries, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, they will seek to engage local and regional fishing communities in areas where offshore wind projects are being considered. They will also determine how to deliver industry knowledge into the offshore wind development process.
In addition, they will work together to ensure decisions are made using the best available science.
"Of course, any development on the Outer Continental Shelf must consider how these activities can affect current ocean users and the marine environment,” BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank said in a statement. “That is why working with federal, state, and local agencies, fishing communities, and the public in our process is such an essential part of our renewable energy program. We look forward to working with NOAA and RODA to balance the needs of all ocean users through extensive and continuous engagement."
Currently, the U.S. has leased 1.7 million acres offshore in the Atlantic for wind energy development. Once all are active, those 15 projects could develop enough electricity for 6.5 million homes.
That work is being done in the same area that is home to more than 4,600 fishing vessels. Those boats landed more than one billion pounds of fish in 2016 and are responsible for producing 140,000 jobs.
As more wind energy projects are being proposed, the fishing industry has sought to be included in discussions, so its interests can be factored in the decision-making process.
Chris Oliver, the assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, said the agreement with RODA comes at an important time.
“This Memorandum of Understanding will help achieve NOAA Fisheries’ strategic national goal of maximizing fishing opportunities while supporting responsible resource development," he said.
This marks the second agreement RODA has reached with key players in offshore wind development. In January, it announced a collaborative partnership with Ørsted U.S. Offshore Wind, which is working on offshore wind projects in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia.
“The fishing industry has expressed its concern about the potential impacts of rapid large-scale wind energy development to coastal communities and sustainable fishing practices," said Annie Hawkins, executive director of RODA. “This agreement paves a way forward for fishing communities to give meaningful input to federal regulators in determining the future of our ocean resources.”