By Captain Paul Eidman
It was all over the news: Hundreds of millions of dollars spent on new wind energy areas (WEAs) for offshore wind developers to start the survey process and determine where and how they will install the offshore wind turbines off New York and New Jersey.
As an experienced charter captain and recreational fisherman, and a close follower of the offshore wind energy industry, I wanted to explain what I believe this auction and these six WEAs mean to the fishing community.
First off, these new areas are further out than earlier wind farms and far out of reach of the average boater, with the closest area being 27 miles off the coast of New Jersey and the furthest being 53 miles out at sea!
Second, from the data provided we can estimate that there will be about 370* and the actual commissioning of these wind farms may not happen until almost 2030 or even later, so it is not going to be happening for a while. There’s a lot of engineering, permitting, and background work that goes into this process. Offshore wind takes an average of 7 years from winning the bid to having blades spinning and making energy.
Foundation-based offshore wind turbines max out depth-wise at about 190 feet, so these new areas are as far offshore as possible without going off the continental shelf which just happens to be in the sweet spot for blue and yellowfin tuna, so these structures will provide an incredible angling opportunity. These towers will become a magnet for the forage species that the tuna love to prey upon, you could even jig up some whiting which is highly prized as tuna bait.
I asked NY Bight charter Capt/Owner John McMurray for his reaction, knowing that he has expanded his One More Cast charter services dramatically to cater to the “jig and pop” tuna fishing community. Capt. John replied that he was “excited about the prospect of these new turbine areas and they will be in a very fishy spot. You just have to look at what the offshore oil rigs have done for the fishing & fisherman down in the Gulf of Mexico, plus there’s no oil to spill and the noise from the operations down there have little or no effect on the fishing.”
Originally, he was concerned about being shut out of the entire area during the construction phase as it was rumored that the areas would be closed off for a year or more. But in speaking with people in the industry, Capt. John found that the restriction would be limited only to the specific turbine being installed, with a security area drawn around it leaving the rest of the wind energy area open to fish.
Capt. John also reminded me that such structures won’t simply aggregate fish but increase bio productivity all around. All kinds of growth occurs on the tower below, supporting all the creatures that eat it, which in turn, supports predators that eat them.
Tuna aside, the Mahi Mahi fishing around the towers and related substations has the potential, especially at these depths to be world-class and the potential to catch a major league bull Mahi presents itself like never before, not to mention other prime game fish.
On the whole, then, I believe that the six new wind farms will add more than 300 individual artificial reefs to the NY Bight area, which will allow charter captains to increase their businesses and catch more fish, and that in turn will bring in more revenues for docks, bait shops, and other supporting coastal businesses, not to mention opportunities to work with the developers on fishing surveys, as marine mammal observers, security vessels, etc. There are some real benefits to recreational fishing here if we know where to look for them.
*This estimate is based on the agreed-upon megawatt (MW) installation capacity of each area divided by using the most powerful WTG available which is 15 mw currently.
Example: Area OCS-A 0544 at 523 MW divided by 15mw = 34 turbines
New Jersey Captain, Reel Therapy
Because of climate change, ocean water temperatures have been rising for decades, and warmer water is forcing gamefish and other marine creatures to move eastward and northward into deeper and colder waters.
Surf and Quahog clams and scallops have all moved further away from the bottom areas they used to prefer. Lobsters that were taken south of Long Island are shifting northward and moving closer into Atlantic Canada. Black sea bass have been migrating north for years. All of us working and fishing on the water are seeing drastic changes before our eyes, happening faster than we can adapt.
In addition to warming waters, the Atlantic is becoming more acidic as higher carbon dioxide is changing the pH of seawater. Ocean acidification directly affects the calcium levels in the shells of creatures such as mussels, oysters, scallops, and clams. Increased acidity also effects the inner ear bones of certain finfish that directly impacts homing instincts for migration and spawning. Lobster studies have shown that acidification is causing them to have increased vulnerability due to “dull” senses and predators are taking full advantage of this. If you have heard of “bleaching” of coral reefs all over the world, this is also caused by acidification; any fisherman who has fished in the Caribbean knows that tropical shallow-water coral reefs are the “bread and butter” of fisheries habitat at these latitudes, and fishing, diving tourism and food production depend heavily on them. In fact, it’s estimated that acidification alone could cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in damage to fisheries, aquaculture, and reefs.
Fortunately, there is something we can do to slow down the twin dangers of seawater warming and acidification. After years of consultation and public input, the prospect of clean energy has arrived in the form of offshore wind generating renewable electricity. Hundreds of turbine towers are to be built and will be producing energy by 2025, expanding to over a thousand by 2030 on the continental shelf along the East Coast.
At the foundation of each of these generators will be an 80-foot diameter radius of football sized granite rocks (scour protection) surrounding a 30-foot diameter steel tower that extends off the seafloor through the water column and up into the sky.
One turbine at a time, the day these turbines are installed will be the birthday of an individual artificial reef, built in barren areas. In a matter of months, mussels and other invertebrates will colonize the new structure and in turn, forage fish, gamefish and predators of all kinds will flock to this newly formed reef system.
What is currently barren seafloor, tormented by decades of bottom trawling and dredging will be converted into a massive artificial reef system that will run down the East coast. Without a doubt, we will witness a fish factory growing in front of our eyes, with mega scale “fish aggregating devices” (FAD’s) creating a vital habitat that’s both home and nursery for fish production. Increasing habitat for forage and gamefish species that inhabit the entire water column is the key to rebuilding fish stocks, especially at a time when so many of our species are diminishing.
BOTH Recreational and commercial fishermen will directly benefit from these new reefs in the very near future.
Recreational anglers recognize the benefits of how clean energy from offshore wind power can help to put the brakes on the climate related damage done to gamefish species. As fishermen, we are pre-wired with a “find the structure find the fish” mindset and see a giant “win-win”. With full access to every structure, we are excited about the potential, not only that the structures will hold the fish longer along our coast, but to enhance the predictability and potential catches of bottom fish like summer flounder (fluke), black sea bass, tautog, cod and more. Bluefish, all types of tuna, bonito and mahi mahi will congregate and feed further up the tower.
There is already talk of adding well-designed turbine reef enhancement on top of the scour protection rock to enhance fishing and to improve fish stocks. Behind the scenes, we have been talking about the developer decommissioning process 25 years from now. We are working towards an implementation of the “rigs to reef” program (just like in the Gulf of Mexico) to ensure that after decades of ecosystem enhancement, these valuable reefs can be retained, and locations shared with fishermen and divers.
The five turbines at the Block Island wind farm in Rhode Island have been in the water as a prototype since 2016 and have quickly become a fishing hotspot destination for anglers seeking of all kinds of gamefish in all seasons. And, more recently, the two new turbines placed by Dominion Energy last summer twenty-seven miles off Virginia Beach have also become an instant fish magnet, as recently witnessed by divers in just a few months after installation.
While they haven’t joined publicly in solidarity, there are other sectors of the commercial fishing world that quietly see the newfound structure as predictable hotspots to help them as well. Family-owned smaller commercial vessels that fish with static gear and provide local sustainable seafood for market (think black sea bass, blackfish, lobster, monkfish etc.) will be the first to set gear near these foundations and thrive. We have already seen this occur on the 13 artificial reefs here off New Jersey that were intended for the recreational sector and spent a decade getting “the pots off the reefs”. These new turbine reefs will clearly be added to the hotspot list of new nearshore fishing destinations, supporting smaller, less-damaging methods of commercial fishing that don’t resort to expansive bottom trawling.
The old proverb ‘A lie will go round the world while the truth is pulling its boots on’ has never been more applicable. Nowadays, in the sea of social media and political overtones, false claims against offshore wind travel at light speed and getting solid information out is incredibly tricky.
One FACT that we can’t ignore is that continuing to burn coal, fuel oil and natural gas for electric power at the current rate will ruin our oceans and the creatures in it. Climate change is an undeniable threat to recreational fishing.
Looking at the many ways responsibly developed offshore wind power will improve the ocean; we are hopeful that it will benefit fisheries production sustainably for generations to come. Pollution free energy from offshore wind turbines offers us a solution that can help to slow down some of the most serious issues facing all fishermen. Offshore wind power could enhance and bring new life to our coastal ecosystems and economy if we just give it a chance.
Follow these links to watch offshore wind videos and our fishing trip to the Block Island Wind Farm
Link to petition for New Jersey residents:
Take Action (offshorewindnj.org)
In 2017 Equinor Wind US, LLC was awarded the lease to study and develop OCS-A 0512, the area now known as Empire/Boardwalk Wind, in the New York Bight. On July 18, 2019, New York Governor Cuomo awarded Equinor Wind a contract to supply 816 MW of renewable offshore wind power to New York from the Empire Wind project in this lease area. Most recently, Equinor released a planned layout for this project, allowing anglers like us to get a sense of what the project will entail, as well as what the entire lease area could look like when built out.
The initial phase of this project will be able to power over 500,000 New York homes, with an expected operations date of 2024. The second phase will be awarded in the future.
The lease area starts about 14 miles south of Jones Inlet, Long Island and 17 miles east of Sea Bright, New Jersey. It extends approximately 22 nautical miles (nm) to the southeast, in water depths of between 60-130 feet (10-22 fathoms).
This triangle shaped area will have about 68 turbines at the top of the triangle that will feed New York (named Empire Wind) and then in the near future, at the opposite end, the possibility for another 130 turbines that will feed New Jersey or New York. Empire Wind will have a single substation and future buildouts will have two substations.
Recreational anglers with boats from all over the New York and New Jersey Bight will have open access to the windfarms – which will serve as massive artificial reefs, attracting gamefish species like black sea bass, tautog (blackfish), scup (porgy), bluefish, summer flounder (fluke), cod, mahi mahi, and tuna.
The developer has planned a number of steps to minimize impacts to habitat and other ocean uses. They are:
You can read their entire site plan here. It is important to note that this layout is not set in stone, and there will be opportunities to provide feedback to the developer. Anglers for Offshore Wind Power is committed to staying on top of this project and ensuring it adheres to our three principles of guaranteed fishing access, fisheries impacts monitoring before, during and after construction, and opportunities for public input throughout the process. Stay tuned for more!
Anglers see the impacts of warming water firsthand as species move further north. They also stand to benefit from the significant artificial reef structure that will be created by hundreds of turbines installed off our coasts. For these reasons and more, offshore wind power is a great opportunity for recreational anglers, but development must be done responsibly.
Anglers for Offshore Wind Power promotes a set principles for responsible development: guaranteed fishing access; ongoing monitoring of fisheries impacts; and opportunities for public input on projects and permitting. We’ve seen this thoughtful approach to development work firsthand at America’s first and only offshore wind farm off of Block Island, Rhode Island, which you can see in our new video.
Please share this video with your friends, on social media, or however you can to help share the story of how responsibly developed offshore wind power can make recreational fishing better. As offshore wind power development ramps up, now is the time to get engaged to ensure offshore wind power develops in a way that works for recreational anglers.
When Anglers for Offshore Wind Power launched a year and a half ago with the input of captains, fisheries advocates, and fishing clubs, states were in the process of making significant commitments to purchase offshore wind energy and developers were readying projects to keep up with the growing demand for clean energy. Since then, there have been numerous announcements from developers and state and federal agencies – the momentum is building. In addition to our new video, we thought this would be a good opportunity to update you on the latest commitments and projects to show just how much has transpired in a few months:
To learn more about each states projects, visit their state page on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Website.
In order to stay engaged in this campaign and learn more, please sign our principles today.
Capt. Paul Eidman and Capt. John McMurray
Captain Paul Eidman is a Raritan Bay, New Jersey based charter captain of Reel Therapy. Captain John McMurray is a Long Island, New York based charter captain of One More Cast Charters.
Last month, New York announced the award of two offshore wind projects that will provide 1,700 megawatts of power – enough to power 1 million homes – to the state. One of developers, Equinor, owns the rights to develop offshore wind power in a lease area in the New York bight, approximately 15 miles south of Jones Beach, Long Island and 17 miles east of Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
For many anglers, offshore wind power has flown under the radar for years. Today, states are making ambitious commitments to develop more of this clean energy source in the next five years, but the only offshore wind project in the entire country consists of five turbines operating off of Block Island. This is all going to change very quickly as we go from five to hundreds of turbines from New Jersey to Massachusetts right in front of our eyes.
Adding all of that underwater structure will serve as new artificial reef hot spots well within reach of many anglers, and sooner than we imagined. The Block Island Wind Farm saw the turbine foundations covered in mussels in just a few months, and today anglers are catching black sea bass, fluke, cod, scup, tautog and mahi-mahi around the turbines.
In the Empire Wind development that Equinor is planning, offshore anglers from New Jersey and New York will likely find the bait-holding potential of the sixty to eighty turbine foundations attracts a number of pelagic species as well. For those of us who run sixty or more miles offshore to chase tuna and other migratory species, looking for lobster pots, grass mats, current rips or anything that helps aggregate bait, the potential opportunity is very exciting.
Notably, this project will also be the first proposed American project to use cement filled “gravity foundations” for the turbines which do not require pile driving that can disturb fish and marine mammals during construction. While there are new methods to do pile driving responsibly, gravity foundations completely eliminate the need for this construction method.
Offshore wind power is only going to benefit recreational anglers if developed with our input in mind. Engaging early in the planning process to provide input on siting, permitting and access can avoid future conflicts. Whether you’re a resident of New Jersey or New York you can have a say in this and other projects as they are developed in federal waters off our coastline. Anglers for Offshore Wind Power has three major principles:
Recreational anglers must be able to fish up to the base of turbine foundations to take advantage of the new habitat that will be created by offshore wind power development. We understand access may be limited during construction.
2. Public Input
Recreational anglers must be engaged early in the planning process for offshore wind power development. Clearly communicated opportunities to provide input on siting, permitting, access and other issues can avoid future conflicts.
Fisheries research before, during and after wind turbine construction is essential for monitoring impacts to species of interest to recreational anglers. Study results should be publicly available and regularly communicated to our community.
To stay informed and get involved, visit www.anglersforoffshorewind.org/principles today and sign up. You’ll help us send the message to offshore wind power developers and permitting agencies that these considerations must be taken into account. It’s also the best way for us to keep you informed and to provide opportunities for public comment on developments. Anglers need to advocate for responsible offshore wind development and have a seat at the table every step of the way – and we’re here to help make that happen.
The upsides for recreational anglers are too great to sit this one out, so if you’re a Jersey or New York angler, please like, share and follow us on Facebook, and online at www.anglersforoffshorewind.org
New Jersey Captain - Reel Therapy
New Jersey just selected its first ever offshore wind project – now is the time for anglers to get engaged so this and future projects can work for us.
The Fourth of July holiday started off with a bang as the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) selected a bid to develop the state’s first ever offshore wind power project. After a competitive bidding process, the BPU awarded an 1,100 megawatt project to Danish renewable energy company Ørsted to partner up with PSEG, American supply chain companies and New Jersey-based workers. Once completed, this project will power more than 500,000 homes, delivering clean reliable renewable energy at a competitive price to New Jersey ratepayers. Depending on the technology available at the time of construction, we’d expect around 100 turbines in this wind farm and for it to be operational by 2024.
The board acknowledged that the bid was selected in large part due to the economic development provisions in the project, which included opening a headquarters in Atlantic City.
Most critical to us anglers, though, is that at its closest point, this project will be about 15 miles off the coast of Atlantic City, Great Egg Harbor and Corson Inlets making it easily accessible for fishing. Note that the lease area shown here represents the exploration area only, actual turbine siting has not been decided yet. This 15 mile distance from shore reduces visual impact, and minimizes conflicts with known migration routes of wildlife as well as marine traffic.
Experience at the Block Island Wind Farm has shown that these turbines start to grow mussels and begin forming habitat and holding fish as soon as they’re installed – even before the turbines are erected. That means, anglers could be catching fish on the newly formed reef habitat at the turbine foundations in just a couple of years from now.
The experience of other Anglers for Offshore Wind Power advocates tells us now is the time to get engaged in the permitting process. In the coming months, we’ll start to see more site-specific plans as well as planned fisheries and environmental studies. We’ll have numerous opportunities at the state, federal and even local level to provide comments on the projects so that they will best serve the interests of recreational anglers. As this is New Jersey’s first project, it’s even more important we get this one right. Be sure to follow Anglers for Offshore Wind Power online, attend meetings and share info with all of your friends.
As a reminder, our principles are:
1.Guaranteed fishing access to the turbine foundations
2.A commitment to scientific fisheries monitoring before, during and after turbine construction
3.Ample opportunity for public input
These aren’t just ideas on paper. As states like Massachusetts and Rhode Island are farther along in the project development process, we’ve:
If you want to support responsible development of offshore wind power that works for recreational anglers, sign our principles today.
NOTICE: Anglers/mariners should be aware of survey operation vessels working in the area and give them a wide berth. They will be towing gear out to 1000 feet behind them. These vessels have restricted ability to Maneuver. (VRAM)
At the end of June, anglers from across the Northeast joined Anglers for Offshore Wind Power, state officials and offshore wind developer fisheries liaisons on a fishing trip to America’s first offshore wind farm near Block Island, Rhode Island.
This was a tremendous opportunity for recreational anglers to see firsthand how offshore wind turbines create structure and attract fish, but also to build relationships so that we continue to have a voice as more and bigger wind farms are developed.
Despite it being a cloudy, rainy morning with slow fishing, we still boated a few keeper summer flounder and black sea bass. There have been rumblings about how flounder are affected by undersea electrical cables, but all accounts from local anglers are that the flounder fishing at the wind farm is as good if not better than before the turbines. We confirmed that by taking a few fish from spots very close to the turbines.
The developer of the Block Island Wind Farm, Deepwater Wind, also set the precedent for how to work with the angling community. They built relationships with local charter captains, as well as the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association, and have monitored impacts to the fisheries after construction. Most importantly, they have followed through on their commitment to always allowing fishing access right to the base of the turbines.
The next project slated for development, known as Vineyard Wind, will be built 17 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and have 81 turbines. In addition, Deepwater Wind will be developing a 15 turbine project off of Rhode Island. There are also plans for a 600 megawatt project that will split power between Rhode Island and Connecticut in the same area. Likewise, New Jersey just announced its first ever offshore wind project – the 1100 megawatt Ocean Wind project off of Atlantic City. Because turbine capacity and technology is advancing so rapidly, we won't know exactly how many turbines each project will be until closer to construction, but suffice to say it is likely we’ll see at least a couple hundred turbines in the water in the next few years.
That is why it is so important for anglers to have experiences like we did at the wind farm. Offshore wind power is an important way to reduce the pollution that is driving climate change. as warming waters and higher sea levels are already changing distributions of fish and impacting our fisheries. These hundreds of turbines will create underwater structure that will attract fish. Anglers can and will support offshore wind, but only if it is done right by guaranteeing fishing access, committing to scientific monitoring and providing opportunities to provide input on every step of the development process.
The good news is we’re being heard, in part because of the relationships we create on trips like this. For instance, Vineyard Wind committed to monitoring impacts to highly migratory fish species after hearing from recreational anglers that their site is a big game fishery for pelagic species. We’ve also gotten developer representatives and the Coast Guard to say public over and over again that they have no intent to restrict fishing access to the turbines. And finally, we’ve been showing up at environmental impact hearings, fisheries management council meetings and other events to ensure the recreational voice is being heard.
After another successful fishing trip, we’re all looking forward to being able to fish at one of the new wind farms in the near future, and are committed to ensuring the lessons learned from Block Island Wind Farm are applied to any future development.
By: Capt. Paul Eidman, Reel Therapy with input from Kyle Kingman, Offshore Power, LLC
The topic of offshore wind development in New Jersey waters has created three main groups of people: Those all for clean, responsible, and affordable renewable energy growth, those against it for any and all reasons, and the silent majority who are waiting to see regardless of the outcome, and pretty much fine with either as long as their bills don’t rise too much. I'd like to focus here on those who are against offshore wind development.
Recently, there have been some fearful concerns being raised regarding the electromagnetic fields (EMF) produced by the submarine power transmission cables.
Specifically, there is a misleading claim that the EMF of a submarine power cable will create an electromagnetic barrier that fish, namely Summer flounder (Fluke) will not cross. The contention is that this would affect their annual migration inshore from offshore wintering areas and ultimately lead to the collapse of an important fishery, which is clearly a bad thing. As a result, they demand that offshore wind farms should be halted.
As a fisherman and not an offshore wind power expert, I reached out to folks outside of the offshore wind development companies and went down the supply chain to speak with experts in the field of underwater cables and electrical engineering. This is what I found out:
We must carefully acknowledge concerns which are based on direct observation, history, facts, and studies. However, this is not one of them. This selective reporting to elicit fear and create doubt about the future of wind farms is intentional and hollow. Very few studies have been done on the effects of submarine power EMF on bottom-dwelling fish such as flounder because no significant observable impacts have ever been reported with the existing offshore wind farms or submarine power cable systems, anywhere around the world.
Had the Fisherman Magazine chosen to report on this with accuracy in its April 2019 issue they would have concluded exactly what the 2006 Danish study found as well. The study concluded that there were no definitive responses or significant negative impacts observed. Flounder continued to cross the cable but may have been observed at times to go slower across the cable during the study, but it never interrupted the fish’s travel.
It is important to note that the scientists could not conclusively attribute changes in behavior to the EMF. This can be for a host of reasons. Perhaps fish were reacting to the observation methods. Fish may have sensed a slight remnant of a cable trench (structure) or even some thermal effects of the cable. Speaking to someone who is in the industry, they personally have witnessed thousands of flatfish in the North Sea crossing submarine power cables, swimming along them, and even using the remains of the cable trench as structure to hunt and hide for prey. A cable trench sometimes remains for a time following installation depending on the bottom conditions.
The bottom line as to why EMF is extremely unlikely to cause an effect on fish behavior and or migration patterns offshore New Jersey (or elsewhere) is because modern AC submarine power cables are heavily sheathed and shielded. The sheath blocks all electric fields, although the magnetic field remains. The cables used for offshore wind farms have 3 power cores bundled together inside a common armor layer. The current in the 3 cores is phase-shifted so that the magnetic fields from the cores oppose each other and thus the external magnetic field is very low. Finally, these cables would be buried to a depth of 2-3 meters (80 to 120 inches).
Where does this concern stem from? It seems to be rooted in a misunderstanding of the technology.
If EMF or specifically the magnetic field of the cables did, in fact, block fish from migrating, then there would be no flounder currently caught inside of many estuaries, bays, tidal rivers, fjords, and seas. We have many examples of around the world where submarine power cables of all types and sizes stand between these water bodies and the open water. The fish would not move in and out to breed and we would no longer have those fish after a few years. However, there is simply no practical evidence of an EMF barrier. Fully developed large scale wind farms overseas have been in operation for many years now with no reported related issues from the fisheries.
We can conclude that people with special interests against offshore wind development, against anything for that matter, will use any argument they can to stop it, even false arguments. They will use those arguments to gain support from whomever they can, even if the issue is completely invalid, as is with this EMF case. The irony to me is this EMF concern is being raised by a recreational fishing magazine that relies on selling advertising space to marine manufacturers and tackle trades.
One would think that these guys would dive head first into this, using the publication to encourage participation in the stewardship process.
We all need to stand together and make sure that the offshore wind developers take our input during the early planning stages and site turbines correctly. We should be using our collective voice to ensure we have access to project sites and raise real potential issues early to avoid conflict in the future. It seems there is another motivation beneath all of this, to help fan the flames of opposition that we are currently seeing from the profitable and influential commercial bottom trawling fleet and from folks that want to keep the natural gas supply pumping.
Burning fewer fossil fuels leads to cleaner, healthier waters which benefit us all. More structure in the water means more fish habitat and aggregation of key gamefish species like Black Sea Bass, Summer flounder, blackfish and many more. This leads to increased fishing opportunity, increased trips out on the water with more paying customers on party boats, and more folks feeling confident enough with the fishing to buy more tackle, boats, and trucks to tow them.
Overall, it leads to an improved and sustainable coastal economy. Looking at the long-term gains instead of short-term profits, offshore wind power could help stem the tide of rising water temperatures and help to hold our gamefish species along our shores and slow many species’ northward progression. All this while adding thousands of American jobs, sustaining our coastal economy and building the recreational fishing business!
Kyle Kingman is an expert in high voltage submarine cable systems, installation, and protection. He has worked with numerous large energy companies and Transmission System Operators around the world including providing the lead representation of the two largest HVDC Power Interconnector projects in history, which represents a 4 Billion Euro combined investment.
Capt. Paul Eidman is an NJ based small business owner of Reel Therapy fishing charters and an advocate for fisheries conservation and habitat. He represents Anglers for Offshore Wind Power, a group that is speaking up for responsibly developed offshore wind power. AFOWP's key principles are Angler access, angler input, and science before, during and after construction.
By Captain Paul Eidman - New Jersey Fishing Guide
To stay up to date and support responsible offshore wind development that benefits recreational anglers, sign our principles.
Back in May, I attended my first public meeting about the offshore wind farms planned for the waters off New Jersey’s coast. Little did I know, I was entering into new and uncharted waters and I needed to ramp up fast just to keep up with the pace that all of this was happening at this meeting. Despite hearing discussions about offshore wind power in New Jersey years ago, I thought the issue was asleep. I came to realize that when Gov. Christie left office, a new door swung wide open and offshore wind power development is back on in a big way. I was surprised that both Gov. Murphy and President Trump’s Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke were speaking from the same page about the need to develop this resource.
The federal folks holding the meeting were from BEOM, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which as it turns out, would be the first of dozens of acronyms that were hurled at me for the next hour and a half. I remember BOEM from many of the sand mining meetings over the past few years. They are the “landlord” for the ocean floor from 3 to 200 miles out, or as we know it the EEZ, Exclusive Economic Zone.
I was the only recreational fisherman in attendance, and there were over 50 people in the room. It was clear to me by the end of the meeting that more of us need to be engaged in this process from the beginning so we can reap benefits for recreational fishing. We need more fish attracting structures in the ocean and these platforms, if they are anything like the oil rigs out in the Gulf of Mexico, would be kick ass spots for everything from Black sea bass to mahi mahi. Each one of these platforms will become a “fish factory” in addition to providing a holding area for many migrating species. There were however, many commercial guys, mainly the trawler guys in the commercial clam, scallop and squid business. While they are skeptical of what offshore wind farms will do their ability to trawl in these areas, recreational fishermen need to speak up because it will likely make our fishing better.
BOEM was soliciting input on a “call area” – which is a proposed area for offshore wind power development in the New York/New Jersey Bight. At first glance of the maps, I was frankly shocked by the size. However, that is exactly why BOEM was hosting this meeting. They were looking for feedback on which areas to remove from potential development. In fact, previous call areas in Massachusetts and Rhode Island were altered before leasing due to angler feedback. That is why it is so important for us to be there.
As an angler, I do have particular concerns about development. First, we need to be able to fish these things. BOEM told me fishing would be allowed right up to the base of the turbines as long as we don’t tie up. Access will be limited during construction, understandably. Also, I was concerned about ongoing monitoring to fisheries. We know these artificial reefs can be great for fishing, but we should be tracking all of the impacts, especially as more wind farms are developed. Many developers and BOEM are committed to this monitoring. I came away quite a bit more assured about offshore wind and its benefits for fishing, but still concerned that recreational anglers needed to provide input.
But it isn’t the last opportunity for us to provide feedback. Since this meeting I’ve learned a lot more about the process. First, BOEM creates a map for areas that could potentially be auctioned off for wind development. It then asks for input on where to or not to develop – which is what this meeting was. Then they will auction of pieces of this area to the highest bidder. Finally, that developer will submit a plan to BOEM that must be reviewed. Throughout these steps we will have opportunities to say what does and doesn’t work for anglers.
In addition to the future leasing of the New York and New Jersey Bight, there is an existing lease 12 miles of Atlantic City. The developer, Orsted, is currently doing a site assessment to determine the best place to locate turbines. They will share their plan with the public and we can provide input. There is also a small-scale demonstration project proposed for state waters off of Atlantic City called Nautilus. While this development could be good for fishing in state waters, environmental organizations are concerned about impacts to birds like the iconic Red Knot. Personally, I want to make sure these things benefit the entire ecosystem and am concerned about unintended consequences of projects like this while remaining excited about the bigger opportunities offshore.
We also already have an existing demonstration project off of Block Island, Rhode Island. Back in 2016, Deepwater Wind completed construction on the first offshore windfarm in the USA, the Block Island Wind Farm, a small project consisting of 5 turbines that are now powering 17,000 homes and business on Block Island. They sit about 4 miles off the Southeast corner of the island and are producing about 30 megawatts of power. The transmission line runs from mid-island back to the main land and works both ways.
It was barely a few months before mussels and underwater growth began to form on the bases and each of them became an ecosystem quickly. Fisherman began catching black sea bass, summer flounder (fluke), cod and tautog soon after the construction stopped. The Coast Guard and the developers have reassured the public can have full access for anglers, divers and spearfisherman that you can get as close as you want, you just can’t tie off.
The Block Island Wind Farm replaced an antiquated power plant that ran on diesel fuel that was brought over, in a tanker truck, on top of a ferry. The islanders were paying some of the highest rates in the country because of this, and it was dirty to boot. There were significant savings in energy costs gained by shifting over to wind power, but because the new system is only 5 turbines, the savings as compared to a system that would feed New Jersey and New York is much smaller. As in many things, large scale will make offshore wind energy cheaper.
Recently, base cost estimates for a new, larger wind farm planned south of Martha’s Vineyard were almost on-par with fossil fuels in the area. That’s what they call “parity’ in the renewable world and once that parity goal is achieved, there’s no stopping renewables from becoming a bigger part of the current New Jersey Board of Public Utilities portfolio and hopefully displacing many fossil fuels. Offshore wind has the potential to reduce carbon emissions drastically, increase America’s energy independence and have a major impact on stalling climate change. In turn, this will help to keep many of our gamefish species hanging tight along our coast for all of us “fish heads” to enjoy!
I look forward to staying engaged on these important developments on offshore wind in the coming months. I’ll be sure to keep JCAA members and the board informed on where we can have the biggest impact to ensure recreational fishing opportunities are kept in mind as development moves forward quickly.
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