The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance has signed a 10-year collaborative agreement with NMFS and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management regarding the development of offshore wind energy projects off the East Coast.
The Washington-based alliance represents the seafood and fishing industries and has been working to voice and amplify the concerns of the maritime trades as offshore wind projects are being fast-tracked for approval.
“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 the alliance. “This agreement paves a way forward for fishing communities to give meaningful input to federal regulators in determining the future of our ocean resources.”
The agreement states that the federal agencies will seek to engage local and regional fishing communities in areas where offshore wind projects are being considered and work together to ensure decisions are made using the best available science. They will also determine how to incorporate industry knowledge into the offshore wind development process.
"Of course, any development on the Outer Continental Shelf must consider how these activities can affect current ocean users and the marine environment,” said BOEM's Acting Director Walter Cruickshank. “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."
So far, the federal government has leased 1.7 million acres in the Atlantic for 15 wind energy development projects. Those projects intersect with the fishing and transit grounds of more than 4,600 fishing vessels. Those boats landed more than a 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, assistant administrator for NMFS, 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," Oliver 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.