In a Jan. 22 letter addressed to Maine's fishermen and fishing organizations, Gov. Janet Mills expressed support for an offshore wind research proposal in federal waters coupled with legislation that would establish a 10-year moratorium on wind energy development in state waters.

"I want to make it clear that my focus is the research array, proposed for federal waters. New, commercial-scale offshore wind projects do not belong in state waters that support the majority of the state's lobster fishing activity, that provide important habitat for coastal marine and wildlife species and that support a tourist industry based on part on Maine's iconic coastal views," the letter reads.

The proposed federal-waters research project, announced in November 2020, includes up to a dozen floating turbines covering roughly 16 square miles from 20 to 40 miles offshore. The development would be led by New England Aqua Ventus, a joint venture of RWE Renewables and Diamond Offshore Wind, which is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp.

Mills has extended the project's pre-application timeline to "allow for additional substantive input from the fishing industry," before developers submit their application to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Fisheries advocates remain concerned about maintaining engagement and feedback from the industry.

“It is imperative that any development in the Gulf of Maine includes robust engagement with the commercial fishing industry in every step of the decision-making process,” said Genevieve McDonald, a state representative from Stonington, commercial fisherman and fisheries liaison for Aqua Ventus.

The moratorium in state waters allows the industry an opportunity to focus on the siting process and planning underway for the offshore array.

“This moratorium is an important step that will allow us to continue to alleviate concerns expressed by fishermen and will give us an opportunity to have a more focused conversation around the proposed research array,” said Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “We will continue to work to see that all stakeholders are afforded the opportunity to have a voice in the decision-making process. Maine fishermen are vital to our state’s economy and heritage and I applaud Governor Mills’ decision to support their opportunity for input into the shared use of our state’s valuable marine resources.”

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 16 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute's Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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