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Offshore wind energy might be killing whales, but there’s no question it’s killing American fishermen.
I’ve been a fishing boat captain for over 20 years. I live on an island in Maine and sail out of New Bedford, Mass. My brothers and cousins are lobstermen.
Fishing is the trade our family has plied for generations. We’re proud to practice the founding craft of our nation. When colonists first settled New England, they looked to the sea to sustain them. And so it is for our coastal communities four centuries on.
But for how much longer? Federal regulators and foreign green energy companies seem determined to drive us off the water and lay waste to the communities that depend on fishing. If their well-laid development plans succeed, biblical calamity will follow for working people across New England.
Consider the mechanics of fishing. Commercial fishermen land fish by running nets through the water column off the back of our boats. When foreign green energy companies sink wind turbines into the ocean floor, they permanently close those areas to our nets. We call it obstruction bottom – there’s no way we could run our nets through or around them.
Fishing boat captain Jerry Leeman (Courtesy Jerry )
On Maine’s coast alone, some ten million acres have been designated for offshore wind development. As the adjoining chart from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management shows, that’s practically the entirety of Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine.
I’ve worked those waters for two decades. They are highly productive and sustainable. But I will never work those areas again once they are packed with turbines that lumber down to the sea floor.
The remaining fishermen will be forced to stay close to the coast, competing bitterly in a few bays and estuaries. Those very waters are spawning grounds for many specifies of fish. Restricting the fleet to those areas will jeopardize the same species regulators claim to protect.
Jerry Leeman's fishing boat.
We also worry about the effects wind turbines will have on marine life. Research from Norway indicates that HVDC cables that run inland from offshore windfarms generate magnetic fields that disrupt the swimming patterns of infant fish, such as haddock. Magnetic fields vector them out of "nurseries" toward waters with more predators or less abundant sources of food.
Haddock are the main species of fish that I catch, and the Norwegian study warned that these magnetic fields could have negative "population-scale implications for haddock in the wild." Sounds to me like wind farms are an invasive species.
No fisherman I know is against alternative sources of energy. But the green transition should not be accomplished by the wholesale destruction of our domestic fishing fleet and the communities that depend on it. After all, we are the consumers wind energy companies purport to serve. We are the citizens our government purports to protect. Yet few if any of our elected officials are advocating for us.
This is an inexplicable dereliction of duty on the part of our elected leaders. The fleet sustains jobs in dockyards, fuel dealerships, processing centers, and transportation. In our coastal towns, you either make a living with your hand in the water or count on someone else who does. It’s like a tree of life coming out from the sea.
The squeeze on the fishing industry tracks an influx of new residents in my home state of Maine, which was a top destination for remote workers during the pandemic. The state has added more than 30,000 new residents since July 2020 alone.
Fishing boat captain Jerry Leeman
These new neighbors presumably came because Maine lives up to its billing as "Vacationland." But as is true anywhere, the new arrivals are displacing those of us who were born here. In many cases, fishermen are being disinherited from our livelihoods and from our homes.
My business is hard going I don’t have the luxury of fishing when the weather allows. I’m at sea year-round for seven to ten days at a time. This time of year, that means handling 15-foot swells in subzero temperatures for hours at a time.
The work is grueling and relentless. We often choose between eating and sleeping. Every workplace has its stresses and challenges, but at sea, a truly bad day can end with a fatality. I once woke up laying on the ceiling of my cabin – a rogue wave had flipped our boat in the middle of the night.
Nature’s challenges suffice. Now, our own government is trying to destroy us too.
Jerry Leeman is a commercial fishing captain who lives in Maine and sails out of New Bedford, Mass.