Last July, the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) formally launched the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap effort, a federally-funded initiative to identify how to support an offshore wind (OSW) economy in Maine that considers the impacts of offshore wind on current marine users, wildlife and the marine resources upon which so many Maine residents depend.
Creation of the Roadmap is happening through four Working Groups with nearly 100 public and private sector representatives. The Working Groups have developed draft recommendations focusing on energy markets, ports and infrastructure, manufacturing and supply chains, workforce development, and fisheries and the environment. An Advisory Committee, composed of the co-chairs from each Working Group and additional representatives with experience in different facets of offshore wind has received draft recommendations from the Working Groups to assist GEO in drafting the final Roadmap. All Working Group and Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public.
A dedicated group of fishermen and fishing industry representatives has been meeting about monthly via Zoom as members of the Fisheries Working Group. The discussions have not been easy. This is a conversation most fishermen wish just wasn’t happening. From the outset of the process, it was made clear that participating in the Working Group discussions does not constitute endorsement of offshore wind development.
The Fisheries Working Group includes representatives from the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, Maine Lobstering Union, Downeast Lobstermen’s Association, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, Maine Aquaculture Association, scallopers, groundfish fishermen, tuna fishermen, herring operators and recreational fishing interest. It is led by Terry Alexander (F/V Jocka) and Meredith Mendelson (DMR) as co-chairs. The Working Group has met nearly a dozen times since July 2021 to jointly learn about various aspects of offshore wind, share issues and concerns and craft an initial set of recommendations.
The Working Group’s agenda has been driven by the members themselves. Staff support from the Department of Marine Resources and professional facilitors has allowed the Working Group meetings to target specific issues and concerns from the industry. The Working Group has brought others from areas already seeing offshore wind development, such as southern New England and Long Island, to share lessons learned from their experiences. The co-chairs of the group have brought forward specific topics, from communications and monitoring to siting and navigation, for discussion; the draft recommendations are based on the group’s input.
Participants in the Fisheries Working Group have worked hard to understand what OSW would bring and, if it does come, what can be done to avoid, minimize, or mitigate its impacts. Engaging in the conversation has been a way to ensure Maine’s fishing interests are a core part of the state’s efforts to define its OSW future and to meaningfully influence how, where and when OSW happens in the Gulf of Maine.
Given the scale of fishing activity by Maine fishermen in the Gulf of Maine, it is critically important that Maine learns from and improves upon lessons from elsewhere. The idea of a new industry being introduced in the marine environment raises significant concerns. Consequently, the draft recommendations are driven by the direct experience of Working Group members and by advice from scientists, policymakers, and fishermen with offshore wind project experience in southern New England who made presentations to the Working Group. The Working Group recommendations have also been informed by approaches taken in other regions and countries.
The initial set of draft recommendations focuses on the need for robust communication between developers and the fishing industry and on being adaptive, with increased monitoring and modifications for future developments if adverse impacts are detected, and on assuring accountability measures are in place. In addition, extensive work has been done by scientists and stakeholders across the region to ensure that data from individual wind projects can be compared and incorporated into existing data sets to inform impact assessment.
In their current form, the recommendations are intended to signal the general content and focus of the Working Group’s deliberations to date; they are not intended to represent the final consensus of the group, nor should they be interpreted as endorsed by any individual participant in the process.
The Fisheries Working Group has generated additional recommendations on issues such as transmission, navigation and safety, regional coordination, and cumulative impacts. It continues to explore additional data and information to determine where OSW might be considered in the Gulf of Maine and where it should not be for the sake of fisheries, habitat and wildlife. The recommendations will evolve based on stakeholder feedback along with some additional information from technical consultants.
The umbrella group for the Roadmap process, the OSW Advisory Committee, will meet on July 20 to discuss recommendations from all the working groups. The GEO will create a draft document over the summer. There will be additional opportunity for public feedback on the entire Draft Roadmap document created by the Advisory Committee in late summer or early fall.
It is easy to get lost, frustrated and overwhelmed by all that is happening that negatively affects the fishing industry these days, yet now is the time to engage in the OSW discussion. Regardless of whether Maine chooses to actively seek out OSW energy development in the Gulf of Maine, the other states that border the Gulf of Maine are already pursuing commercial OSW.
On May 19, the Bureau of Ocean Energy (BOEM) will start the process for designating areas of OSW leases in earnest as it convenes the Gulf of Maine Task Force. The kinds of thoughtful recommendations that are coming out of the Fisheries Working Group through the Roadmap process will influence the conversation at the regional level and can help shape the future outcome of OSW energy for Maine.
Fisheries Working Group Goals
- Produce actionable, prioritized strategies to sustain Maine’s heritage fishing industry, minimize potential conflict, enable co-existence with offshore wind
- development, and inform Maine’s Offshore Wind Roadmap and overall initiative
- Make recommendations on how to implement those strategies, including potential policy changes, research, funding options, and partnerships, in the immediate, near term (through 2025), and longer term (from 2026 – 2040).
- Throughout the duration of the working group, learn from prior experience and adjust process, communications, and content in response to feedback in order to maximize productivity for all parties involved.