Proposed offshore wind map protects a key Maine lobster fishing ground
Setting lobster traps in Casco Bay. (AnnMarie Hilton/Maine Morning Star)
A newly proposed map for offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine included a victory for fishing groups, labor unions and environmental organizations.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has been mapping out locations in the Gulf of Maine to responsibly develop offshore wind, as the fishing industry and state officials have called for protection of vital fishing grounds. A draft Wind Energy Area proposed Thursday did just that by excluding nearly all of Lobster Management Area 1, according to a news release from BOEM.
“The federal government listened to the concerns of our fishing communities,” said Virginia Olsen, executive director of the Maine Lobstering Union, Local 207, in a release from the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
The decision signals that an offshore wind industry that harms Mainers making a living on the water is not welcome, Olsen added.
“We don’t have to choose between sustaining our iconic fishing industries and creating a long-term source of clean energy and good-paying union jobs,” said Francis Eanes, executive director of the Maine Labor Climate Council, in the release.
The draft will undergo a 30-day public comment and review period, so changes may occur.
Earlier this year, the Maine Legislature passed a state law approving the development of three gigawatts of offshore wind by 2040. The Maine Lobstering Union, Local 207 collaborated with labor and environmental organizations to include language in the new law to incentivize developing wind outside the fishing ground for almost the entire Maine-based lobster fishery.
The victory for local fishing also comes after Maine’s congressional delegation and Gov. Janet Mills asked BOEM to listen to Maine fishermen and “minimize all potential conflicts” between wind and fishing.
“Our fishing community feels that their voices are not being heard,” their letter reads. “A straightforward way for BOEM to show it is committed to minimizing impact to fisheries would be to adopt the fishing community’s primary request: remove LMA 1 from consideration.”
Thursday’s draft shows the federal government listened, all while exceeding original energy production goals for Maine (3 gigawatts) and Massachusetts (10 gigawatts).
The proposed 3.5 million-acre area off Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire could support 40 gigawatts of offshore wind. It ranges from 23 to 120 miles off the coast.
“This decision shows respect for the critical role that our heritage fishing industries have played and continue to play in our state’s economy and identity,” said Kelt Wilska, energy justice manager at Maine Conservation Voters, in the release. “Offshore wind is the single biggest lever we can pull to address the climate crisis, meet our energy needs and grow the economy at the same time.”
This report was first published in Maine Morning Star, which is part of the nonprofit States Newsroom, a national network of news bureaus supported by grants and donors and includes New Hampshire Bulletin.
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