Commercial Fisherman Speaks Out

The following comment is from an experienced Commercial Fisherman who recently hung up his fishing boots to work in Offshore Wind as an Onboard Fisheries Liaison.

He provides valuable information and communication between Offshore Wind Survey Vessels and Commercial Fishing Vessels south of Martha’s Vineyard.

I have removed the names of vessels for confidentiality purposes and replaced vessel names as SV1, SV2, FV1, FV2, etc.

This is one of the daily reports he submits with his comment and opinion of a recent negative interaction between a fisherman and a Wind survey vessel. His comments should be read by EVERYONE involved in Offshore Wind.

Normal Daily Report from Survey Vessel:

The SV1 (us) ran to the West side of lease and had began her return to the Eastward progression on the N/S lines, reaching line 33 by 0600 hrs. without any fishery related issues. 

An early morning scan with AIS and RADAR revealed only two vessels in the lease area, that being the scout vessel and the SV2. Neither vessel were interfering with our operations. The SV1 and SV2 spoke on the VHF to coordinate our survey operations today. SV3 and SV4 could be seen working to the South in their respective survey areas for another developer.

Survey ops continued through the day with a few technical problems but no fishery related problems. There was a slight increase in fishing traffic but nothing that impeded our survey operations.

Apparently there was some altercation with the lobster boat and SV3 on the VHF on channel 17 last night.  SV3 is working just South of us.

I had worked with this vessel lobster boat in the beginning of the season without issues while on SV6 with the developer my company works with. We got along quite well and worked together in a professional manner.

I am unaware of exactly what occurred and I assume the survey vessel was positioned in the middle of his fishing gear. The survey vessel didn’t have a FLO onboard so tensions flared and an argument ensued.

I am just making note of this to emphasize the fact that the fishing community in general, does not differentiate between wind farm companies.

Not Having FLO’s Onboard All Boats Working in Offshore Wind is Idiotic

Now let me address the incident last week off the NJ coast.
A survey vessel towed up gear off of New Jersey and the issue is already being discussed in my home port of Point Judith, Rhode Island.

Let me establish that the term “discussed” is a very generous and diplomatic way of saying how fisherman are reacting. THEY ARE PISSED OFF!

The viral video of the fisherman’s confrontation with the survey vessel has given anti-windfarm fisherman more ammunition to bash ALL windfarm projects.

My point being that unless ALL the windfarm companies establish good relations with the fishing communities, they will ALL feel the resentment of the fishermen, even if that New Jersey incident is many states away.

News travels fast, bad news travels twice as fast.
This video is now on all the commercial fisherman Facebook groups that, I need not say, is not good.

I cannot overstate that ALL of these windfarm companies need to understand that mistakes can be forgiven, but to deliberately tow into gear when you are specifically told not to in real time while it is happening is unforgivable.

I fear that this incident will have long lasting and far-reaching consequences for wind operations from a PR point of view. Not to mention the very real financial hit this particular fisherman will take as a result of his gear loss. The world wonders. 

Will someone PLEASE make a rule that all boats working in Offshore Wind must have a FLO onboard?!

Now For The Rest of The Dail Report:
At approximately 1800 hrs. SV5 was observed laying on the top of our “turn around” loop between line 38 and line 39. We informed them that we would eventually be passing through the area and we had no ability to maneuver around them when we did reach that position.  They said they would move when we were closer and to contact them on the radio at the time.

The scout vessel relayed that they had scouted over to the East side of the lease with a single pass on lines 39-42. The area was clear of gear. They also reported that the gear in the Northeast corner was essentially in the same position, with the West end of trawl #502 still unaccounted for. We will make a wide berth for this unknown end while in the area of line 41 and line 42. They will position themselves as our mobile scout tomorrow upon sunrise running a line or two ahead of us scouting for gear, as they had done today. 

As of the submission of this report, there had been no fishery related incidents throughout the day, and an extended AIS search showed no fishing traffic in the area or approaching the site. No fishery related problems are expected for this evening’s survey ops. 

So it was, this 30th day of November, 2021. 

I thought it would be useful to post part of a daily report with Scotts opinion as he was a commercial fisherman for 30 plus years and now involved in Offshore Wind. His knowledge and insight is valuable and I hope upper management of all Offshore Wind Developers read what he had to say.

It’s long past the time that Offshore Wind needs to begin working together and cooperating as an Industry.

99% of all negative interactions with the fishing community happen because no Fisheries Liaison is onboard. ALL vessels working in Offshore Wind need to have a Fisheries Liaison Onboard.

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