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Do Offshore Wind Farms Affect Fishing?

Plans to construct offshore wind farms have been in the works since the Trump administration proposed plans to construct wind generators off the East Coast. This part of the Atlantic Ocean is a major contributor to the commercial fishing industry, which has been the largest opponent of the wind farms. Let's dive in and get a better understanding of why wind farms are being built and how they might affect fishing.

Offshore Tuna

Why are Offshore Wind Farms Being Built?

Today, there are only two small wind farms off the coast of Virginia and Rhode Island. But, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. What federal and state officials have planned is 2,000 wind farms—stretching from North Carolina to Massachusetts. As part of a push toward renewable energy, the Biden Administration is and states are looking for new ways to produce electricity and reduce environmental impact.

Climate change is a hotly debated topic that both sides see in different ways. While wind farms off the East Coast are viewed as the solution by many government officials, the anglers and commercial fishermen see it as having an even greater impact on the environment—but not in a positive way.

Recreational and commercial fishing is a major economic activity in the Atlantic waters just off the East Coast. If tuna, mackerel, crab, lobster or any of the other targeted species are disturbed by wind farms, or fishing near the wind farms is banned altogether, then the Atlantic fishing industry will undoubtedly decline.

Wind Farms Impacts on Fishing?

The impact of wind generators on the environment and wildlife has only been researched recently, and the results so far aren’t all good. While the direct impact on the environment heavily depends on the makeup of the seabed, it’s usually minimal. The impact wind turbines have on wildlife has been more clear. In 2013, a study showed that across the U.S., wind turbines killed 681,000 birds every year. With the proposed wind farms located offshore, birds are less likely to collide with generators. But, it creates new obstacles for boats to navigate, which could be an issue.

Somewhat surprisingly, anglers in the Gulf of Mexico have discovered that offshore oil and gas platforms provide structure that attracts fish. These platforms are now targeted by anglers for the fish they hold, but will wind farms have the same effect?

The impact on the fishing industry is hard to predict without sufficient research, looking across the Atlantic to Europe isn’t promising. European fishermen typically avoid the wind farms because many are prohibited from being near them. Even the ones who can have concerns about losing gear, potential damage to a generator, or wrecking their boat. If the expansive wind farms are constructed, lining the coast and offshore fishing grounds, only time will tell what impacts anglers will have to overcome.