The drive to develop U.S. offshore wind industry is growing along the West Coast, and fishermen should pay close attention to the political and legal battles already ongoing in the Atlantic states, a panel of experienced activists said at the Pacific Marine Expo Thursday in Seattle.
“I’ve been fighting offshore wind since 2003,” said Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association. In those early years, the first proposed projects “died because of the cost,” she said.
Today, “there are a multitude of projects going on,” Brady said, as a screen flashed map graphics showing about 30 proposed wind turbine developments from the Gulf of Maine to the Carolinas, and now more off California and Oregon.
California fishermen were later observers to what is now a concerted push by federal and state governments, but now they too are alarmed, said Jeremiah O’Brien, vice president of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Association.
“In 2015 we were watching what Bonnie and all the folks on the East Coast were dealing with and didn’t like what we saw,” said O’Brien. Eight years later, wind power developers “still believe mitigation will not be necessary” to compensate fishermen for the loss of fishing grounds when turbine arrays are built, he said.
Brady and Conroy urged West Coast fishermen to pay close attention to developments and to organize now to protect their future.
“Nothing about this process is open, which is why we’re suing,” said Brady, whose New York association joined Rhode Island squid processor Seafreeze Ltd., represented by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, in a lawsuit challenger offshore wind projects off southern New England.
That lawsuit is awaiting action in a federal appeals court. The fishermen’s appeal has drawn criticism from environmental advocates, who point to the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s donor ties with fossil fuel interests. But fishing advocates make no apology for allies in what they see as an existential struggle.
“We’re in the fight of our lives,” said Brady. “We don’t have any other choice; we fight or we die.”
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