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Responsible Offshore Development Alliance

USA - Saving Seafood - A Must Read Regarding Offshore Renewable Energy

The following was released by the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance

The United States commercial fishing industry is united around the common goals of protecting our traditional fishing communities, maintaining domestic food security, and leading with evidence-based decision making during an era of rapidly changing ocean use. We are encouraged by the new Administration’s commitment to inclusivity and environmental science. We look forward to improving partnerships between lawmakers, policymakers, and fisheries experts to protect and promote this low-environmental impact protein source, which leads the world in sustainability through the rigorous fisheries management and conservation requirements of the Magnuson Stevens Act.

It is imperative that our elected officials support and adopt policies to minimize and mitigate the effects of climate change; the strategies to do so must equally address the pressing issues of food production, ecosystem health, and preserving cultural heritage. As evidenced by his Agency nominations and recent Executive Order on “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” we are encouraged that the President is taking a measured approach. We applaud leadership and processes that underscore the value of science-based collaboration with members of small communities who are most impacted by natural resource management decisions.

Offshore Renewable Energy Development

The Administration has made clear its commitment to address climate change, which is a matter of critical importance to seafood harvesters adapting to the effects of ecosystem changes every day. The rapid advancement of large offshore wind energy facilities to meet climate goals places our nation at the dawn of a new era of ocean industrialization. While mitigating carbon emissions is urgent and necessary, so is protecting and prioritizing domestic sourcing of sustainable, affordable, and healthy protein. This necessitates evaluating the most efficient means of reducing atmospheric carbon while minimizing impacts to biodiversity and the economy.

Fishing communities stand ready and willing to incorporate their unique expertise in the country’s transition to renewable energy but there must be meaningful ways for them to do so. Three key topics must be addressed to ensure responsible planning for the unprecedented demands that are anticipated to be placed on our oceans.

1. Improving regional research efforts and scientific understanding of offshore infrastructure projects

Development of the Outer Continental Shelf should only be done in a purposeful planned manner utilizing the best available science. Our scientific understanding of impacts from offshore wind energy development is improving, but there is far more unknown about how development will alter the physical, biological, economic and social dimensions of the marine environment.

Evidence-based planning is necessary to understand and minimize impacts, and currently that does not exist for the proposed scale of development to proceed responsibly. For commercial fishermen, it is extremely worrisome to see the push for a new industry that jeopardizes a sustainable and historic one without rigorous scientific due diligence. Such diligence must apply to transparent information about the environmental and economic effects associated with the entire offshore renewable energy supply chain, from mining rare earth minerals for battery components to turbine production to maritime traffic to decommissioning.

Currently, there is no balancing of priorities in offshore renewable energy permitting decisions. Promises to achieve production targets for offshore wind energy based solely on climate goals will significantly impact other public needs such as food production, tourism, and national security. Such targets, if adopted, must be accompanied by a comprehensive roadmap for evaluating tradeoffs and should not be pursued before the creation of balanced multi-use ocean plans. These must include funding for environmental research and compensatory mitigation for impacted sectors.

2. Enhanced interstate coordination and a clear delineation of authorities within federal agencies

Some of the biggest challenges around offshore renewable energy development are due to a lack of consistency in the leasing and planning processes, nonexistent or inconsistent engagement opportunities, and poor integration between planning and permitting authorities.

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