Coastwide
via Unsplash

USA - Offshore wind farms expected to reduce clam fishery revenue, study finds

An important East Coast shellfish industry is projected to suffer revenue losses as offshore wind energy develops along the U.S. Northeast and Mid-Atlantic coasts, according to two Rutgers studies.

The studies, which appear in the ICES Journal of Marine Science, examined how offshore wind farms planned for the eastern United States could disrupt fishing of the Atlantic surfclam, a major economic driver from Virginia to Massachusetts that generates more than $30 million in direct annual revenue. Total fleet revenue declines measured by the studies ranged from 3 percent to 15 percent, depending on the scale of offshore wind development and response of the fishing fleet.

In New Jersey, losses could be as high as 25 percent for fishing vessels based in Atlantic City.

"Understanding the impacts of fishery exclusion and fishing effort displacement from development of offshore wind energy is critical to the sustainability of the Atlantic surfclam fishing industry," said co-author Daphne Munroe, an associate professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

"Tools that can predict and manage these complex and interconnected challenges are essential for developing and evaluating strategies that allow for multiple users of the offshore environment."

To measure the potential impacts of offshore wind farms on Atlantic surfclam catches, Munroe's team created the Spatially-Explicit Fishery Economics Simulator (SEFES), a computer model to help paint a comprehensive picture of stock dynamics, the fishery and fishing fleet decision-making.

"SEFES is basically a virtual world that allows us to simulate the dynamics of the fishery—from how captains navigate their boats to how weather impacts the catch," Munroe said. "But the model also has a layer of biology, which accounts for the clam populations and how they change over time and in space." For instance, climate change is already pushing clam distribution northward; SEFES can account for this shift.

Read more.