By representative Sherman H. Hutchins
There is no compatible mix of wind turbines and fishing!
Endangered species from the Maine fishing family are already dancing around recently announced National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) restrictions to protect right whales from entangled gear. Add several 10,000 ton floating wind turbines and even more whale restrictions on the NOAA registry (98% gear reduction in 10 years), and you have a badly affected Maine fishing industry. Special purple markings on their end lines prove Maine lobster fishermen do not entangle whales. This current settlement also includes a 1,700-pound breakout feature that frees the equipment in the event of a whale encounter.
According to NOAA data, the Maine lobster fishery has never killed or seriously injured a right whale, and there has been no entanglement in Maine lobster gear in 17 years. The recent addition by the Biden administration of further restrictions, without evidence that Maine’s fisheries are contributing to the problem, defies science, logic and common sense. Maine lobsters have been leaders in conservation efforts for decades.
The ever-increasing restrictions on where the Mainers can fish are the problem. From east to west, the coast of Maine is already divided into seven lobster fishing areas which are considered to be under maximum pressure. Lobster fishermen are required to stay in their own areas. They can fish up to 49% of their traps outside of their declared areas, but must obtain special permission and appropriate tags from the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Most refuse to do so, as it would encroach on other people’s traditional fishing grounds.
Imagine, what happens when these narrow corridors are still being decimated by wind farms? What happens when Zone B shrinks to accommodate a floating array of wind turbines? There is no room for fishermen in zone B, and no room in the other zones to overtake. Fishermen (and our food supply) will be in a hurry again.
Although there is a 3-mile shoreline moratorium on installing wind turbines in state waters, some cables can travel 25 to 30 miles to reach the three-mile line. That’s a lot of cable, with a big potential impact on Maine fishermen.
I fear that NOAA is more of a friend of the Green New Deal than of our fishermen, or even of our whales. If NOAA determines that the lobster fishing effort needs to be reduced, then what about the impact of wind turbines, anchor chains, power cables, supply boats and cranes, etc. , who will accompany the new industry? Won’t all this traffic and construction add to the “dangers” of the whales? If NOAA has any concerns, they are not telling us.
In 2019, at a fishermen’s rally in Stonington with hundreds in attendance, Governor Mills, Senator Collins, Representative Pingree and others assured everyone in attendance how they, the fishing families of the Maine, would be protected in their ancestral vocation. Were these promises empty?
Talking is cheap, and these wind turbines consume money for little real power return. In Europe, turbines in the North Sea are aging, with increasing maintenance costs for these giant structures. This in turn consumes taxpayers’ money. If we make a similar decision to move forward with these expensive engineering experiments, aren’t we just creating costs for consumers down the road?
Do you remember Texas last winter? Wind turbines were immobilized by a cold snap. In Maine, the weather typically sheds ice off for months every year. When these concrete and fiberglass structures fail (and they fail), cleaning will be next to impossible. Of course, we can collect and bury the fiberglass, then leave massive areas of tangled concrete and steel on the ocean floor. Future fishing in these areas will be impossible, let alone the new rod on display presenting yet another danger to marine life, including the right whale!
I believe that conservation and innovation have their place. Why would we endanger a proven fishing industry, supporting thousands of families and supplying fish to much of the country, for technology that has proven to be expensive and inefficient?
Republican Representative Sherman H. Hutchins of Penobscot represents House District 131 (Dedham, Orland, Penobscot, Prospect, Stockton Springs and Verona Island) in the Legislative Assembly of Maine.