[The following is excerpted from an April 13 letter to BOEM’s New York Bight offshore wind task force in advance of meetings.]
Major fishing community leaders are sitting out on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Task Force meeting this week (April 13, 2021). As BOEM prepares to auction nearly 1,300 square miles of the most valuable fishery grounds on the East Coast, Task Force members must act as responsible administrators of the public trust. Fishermen have shown up for years to “engage” in processes where spatial constraints and, often, the actors themselves are opposed to their livelihood. They have urgently advocated for the survival of their family and communities, in a context where all the rules are set (and changed) by newcomers interested only in a large-scale ocean acquisition who often don’t even treat them with common courtesy or basic respect.
This time and effort has resulted in effectively no accommodations to mitigate impacts from individual developers or the supposedly unbiased federal and state governments. Individuals from the fishing community care deeply, but the deck is so stacked that they are exhausted and even traumatized by this relentless assault on their worth and expertise.
This meeting boycott is not because fishermen do not wish to be involved in decisions and research efforts about offshore wind — they’ve repeatedly come to the table in good faith. These responsible leaders actively engage in fisheries management processes, partner with environmental nonprofit organizations and government agencies, participate in seafood certification and environmental programs, conduct cooperative research to improve fisheries management, provide platforms for scientific research about ecosystem health and climate change, hold positions of authority within their own communities, donate seafood and services to civic charities, work through a pandemic to ensure U.S. food security, employ large numbers of environmental justice populations, and more... For every time they try to actively participate, there is a new roadblock thrown up in processes that is entirely controlled by those opposed to their interests, in which the overall structure has left no room for them to receive any compromise.
RODA has a Memorandum of Understanding with BOEM and the National Marine Fisheries Service to “effectively engage local and regional fishing interests in the offshore wind development process” and “identify the most effective ways to bring fishing industry expertise and information into planning and development processes.” In stark contrast to this MoU intended to improve fishermen’s ability to act as co-stewards of the marine environment, BOEM is now actively eliminating their ability to even participate in public processes.
Responsible Offshore Development Alliance