The Rhode Island-based fishing vessel Virginia Marise near the Block Island Wind Farm. Deepwater Wind photo.

Federal regulators, fishermen agree to consult on offshore wind

Federal energy and ocean officials signed a formal agreement with commercial fishing advocates to work together on planning for offshore wind energy development.

It is a milestone for the East Coast fishing industry, which is pressing hard to have more influence over how the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is overseeing private wind power developers.

The 10-year memorandum of understanding between BOEM, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance aims to bring “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,” according to a joint statement released Tuesday.

BOEM officials stressed domestic energy production is critical to the nation’s economy and security and that potential offshore wind energy 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.”

The statement also recognizes the fishing industry’s centuries-old place in the region’s economy and culture, and fisheries’ ongoing economic role in the seafood and recreational industries.

“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.”

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