Fish swim among mussels growing on the base of a turbine tower at the Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island, in a promotional video by the American Wind Energy Association.

Offshore wind developers court recreational fishing community

Offshore wind energy developers are courting recreational fishermen in the New York Bight, who could gain dozens of new fishing spots around turbine towers, but worry about impacts of the massive projects on traditional fishing grounds.

“Obviously the hot button for us is access,” said charter captain Paul Eidman of Anglers for Offshore Wind Power, a project of the National Wildlife Federation, which hosted the meeting in Toms River, N.J., on Wednesday along with the American Littoral Society for offshore wind companies and recreational fishermen.

“There’s a lot being proposed to go out in the ocean and on the bottom,” said Tim Dillingham of the littoral society, adding that the developing industry must avoid critical fish habitat and seafloor bumps and ridges that are important to anglers and the region’s big charter and party boat fleet.

There are conflicted feelings in the recreational community. Many anglers want to see the new hard structure that turbine construction would put into the water, swiftly attracting hydroid and shellfish growth that become the base for new fishing hotspots, much like artificial reefs.

The American Wind Energy Association makes that a big selling point, advertising the success anglers and charter captains have with fishing for summer flounder, black sea bass and cod around the Block Island Wind Farm, the nation’s first commercial offshore installation built off Rhode Island in 2016.

“Once the mussels take hold, it goes right up the food chain,” said Eidman, who has fished the Block Island array and speaks glowingly of “a great day fishing, sea bass, lots of doubleheaders.”

“I think we have a fantastic opportunity here,” he told the group.

Some were skeptical.

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