Offshore wind needs increased funding for investigations by NOAA, science centers, say advocates
March 17, 2023
The NOAA fishing vessel, Henry B. Bigelow, conducts fisheries surveys off the East Coast of the United States. Fishing industry advocates say building new offshore wind arrays requires new funding to ensure accurate readings. NOAA picture.
Mitigating the effect of offshore wind development on federal scientific fisheries investigations requires a significant increase in funding, potentially more than $120 million a year, according to a new request to Congress from industry advocates.
Seafood Harvesters of America and the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance say money is needed to help offset offshore impacts on federal fisheries investigations – a cornerstone of the fisheries management and conservation mission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In a March 17 letter to a congressional appropriations subcommittee, the groups recommend an award of $2 million a year for each of the 31 fisheries surveys run by the National Marine Fisheries Service that will be affected by projects. offshore wind farms, plus an additional $10 million for each of six NMFS Regional Science Centers to address issues related to wind energy development.
The letter thanks Congress for its fiscal year 2023 funding that added $16.5 million through the NMFS to address offshore wind issues — including $7 million for impacts on survey work on the Peach.
Calling this funding “a good start”, the letter still warns that it is still far too low given the rapid pace of offshore wind power leasing by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
“There are 31 investigations that will be impacted across the country and NMFS representatives have identified a cost of $2 million per investigation per year to address the impacts of OSW,” the letter states. “Without this funding, Congress will hamper the agency’s ability to develop and test new survey methodologies, calibrate survey data from previous decades with new survey methods, implement new survey methodologies and to communicate these changes to (regional fisheries) councils and fisheries stakeholders.”
The letter also requests $10 million for each of the six Fisheries Science Centers “to expand cooperative research efforts to provide the commercial fishing industry with the opportunity to fill critical data gaps in fish surveys. fisheries and data collection that will arise as a result of OSW”.
NMFS cooperative research projects give harvesters and processors a role in science “while building confidence in results and management decisions,” the letter notes. “Furthermore, collaborative research helps fill existing and emerging data gaps, rebuild trust between seafood managers and the seafood industry, integrate local and traditional knowledge into science, and encourage adherence to management decisions.
More cooperative research will help understand fisheries behavior and operational needs in relation to offshore wind – and can provide new work for fishers who are displaced from fishing grounds by offshore wind projects. With their smaller vessels, commercial fishermen can help the NMFS collect data on wind turbine arrays that the agency’s larger research vessels cannot access, the groups say.
“The scale of OSW proposed in the United States is staggering. So are the financial resources already invested and required to develop effective strategies for its deployment,” the letter notes. “Other federal agencies have received billions of dollars to meet OSW’s permitting and transmission needs; we believe that developing appropriate environmental impact mitigation strategies is equally, if not more, important.
Securing additional funds now is essential, “given the pace of OSW and the lack of development consideration of the impacts of fishing,” the letter concludes. “It will be too late to get funding after the impact of the surveys.”
“BOEM should first prioritize avoiding longstanding federal fisheries investigations and to the extent that they cannot be avoided, we need strong investments to mitigate the impacts of offshore wind development on these investigations. “said Leigh Habegger, executive director of Seafood Harvesters of America, after posting a text of his joint letter with RODA.
“Our request is only a first step in providing NOAA with the resources it needs to adequately and appropriately mitigate the impacts of offshore wind development on critical federal fisheries investigations.”