NOAA Fisheries, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) signed a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding that brings local and regional fishing interests together with federal regulators to collaborate on the science and process of offshore wind energy development on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.
Safe, reliable, and affordable domestic energy production powers the U.S. economy, promotes jobs and is critical to our nation’s security. Offshore wind is an abundant, domestic energy resource that is located close to major coastal load centers, providing an alternative to long-distance transmission or development of electricity generation in these land-constrained regions.
Fishing has occurred in New England and Mid-Atlantic waters for hundreds of years and is an integral part of the region’s culture and economy. Regional fisheries not only provide a healthy and sustainable source of food for both domestic and international markets, but also recreational opportunities for thousands of anglers, divers, and nature enthusiasts. Fisheries also support numerous shoreside processing jobs and support industries important to the economies of many coastal communities.
"Any development on the Outer Continental Shelf must consider how these activities can affect current ocean users and the marine environment," said BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank. "That is why working with federal, state, and local agencies, fishing communities, and the public is such an essential part of our renewable energy program. We look forward to working with NOAA and RODA through early and constant communication to ensure that the most recent information is available to decision makers."
"With wind energy developing in the New England/Mid-Atlantic region, this collaboration comes at a crucial time," said Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, the primary federal agency charged with sustaining U.S. marine resources and habitats. "This Memorandum of Understanding will help achieve NOAA Fisheries’ strategic national goal of maximizing fishing opportunities while supporting responsible resource development."
"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.”
Working together to engage local and regional fishing interests early and often throughout the offshore wind development processes will help develop a collaborative regional research and monitoring program and lead to scientifically sound decisions.
“This unified approach will help ensure the best possible science and information is used to inform offshore energy development planning, siting, and operations,” said Dr. Jon Hare, science and research director for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. “Tapping into the expertise and the knowledge of the fishing industry is essential to this process.”
Focus on Engagement, Research, and Monitoring
Today, the federal government has 15 active leases covering nearly 1.7 million acres in the Outer Continental Shelf for potential offshore wind development. Collectively, these leases could generate more than 19 GW of energy – enough to power more than 6.5 million homes and further solidify our nation's energy future.
NOAA Fisheries manages more than 42 commercially and recreationally important species as part of 14 fishery management plans in the Greater Atlantic Region. In 2016, approximately 4,600 vessels landed more than 1 billion pounds of key fish species, supporting roughly 140,000 seafood jobs. The region is also vital for many endangered and threatened marine species, including the North Atlantic right whale, necessitating protective measures to ensure their survival for future generations.
“NOAA is committed to assessing the impacts of offshore wind energy projects on these resources,” said Michael Pentony, regional administrator for the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office. “The development of offshore wind energy projects must be done in ways that support the protection and sustainable management of our marine trust resources, fishing communities, and protected species.”
The new Memorandum of Understanding identifies four areas of mutual interest, which include the responsible planning, siting, and development of offshore wind power and working with regional and local fishing interests. The parties agree to collaborate on: engaging local and regional fishing interests in the offshore wind development process; identifying the most effective ways to bring fishing industry expertise and information into planning and development processes; and developing a collaborative regional research and monitoring framework to ensure decisions are based on the best available science.
Collaboration with BOEM, states, and fishing industry interests throughout the renewable energy leasing process will help improve compatibility of offshore wind with other ocean uses and create an effective regional research and monitoring program that will help improve our understanding of potential ecological, economic, and social impacts of offshore wind development.