How Do Offshore Wind Turbines Affect Fishing?

As a result, some anglers have referred to the turbines as “growing food” for fish, claiming that the structure “tosses the little bait [fish] around.” Anglers stated that this introduced more recreationally popular species to the BIWF site, including black sea bass, fluke, and scup.

What are the effects of wind turbines on fish?

foundations and extra buildings for wind farms to prevent “Scavenging (erosion) can increase habitat complexity, which attracts fish and invertebrates, particularly those that like hard substrates. This is referred to as the “The reef effect.”

What are the reasons behind fishermen’s opposition to offshore wind?

The Vineyard Wind project, often known as Vineyard Wind, will be the first commercial-scale offshore wind farm in the United States, generating 800 megawatts of power, enough to power nearly 400,000 households. There are dozens of more offshore wind projects in the works all along America’s east coast. However, several fisherman, especially many in New Bedford, are afraid that the turbines will disrupt their way of life.

A group of fishing industry associations and outfits, including 50 New Bedford fishing boats, filed a lawsuit earlier this month alleging that several federal agencies, including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which approved Vineyard Wind in May, broke the law by approving the project. That conflict is framed by the fishing groups as a war for survival, a last-ditch effort to slow down a coalition of banks, technocrats, and global energy giants intent on building multibillion-dollar projects that they fear will destroy their livelihoods.

Many of those backing Vineyard Wind are concerned about moneybackers such as Bank of America and J.P. Morgan have guaranteed $2.3 billion in finance for the project and are eager for a return on their investment. However, there is a societal imperative to move forward with such projects, with many green energy advocates claiming that the United States has no choice but to build offshore wind turbines as soon as possible if it is to meet its Paris Agreement obligations and avoid the worst effects of climate change. By 2050, the Biden Administration expects such turbines to provide approximately 10% of U.S. electricity, and politicians in coastal, population-dense states like Massachusetts and New York see sea-bound wind farms as a key component of their net-zero goals.

Offshore wind turbines have long been resisted by the fishing sector in other parts of the world. In France, for example, fisherman were instrumental in the failure of an early offshore wind project in 2004. However, in the United States, wealthy homeowners opposed to turbines that they believed would detract from their ocean views were a major source of early opposition to offshore wind. (After years of legal opposition, a group of Cape Cod locals organized an effort championed by billionaire industrialist Bill Koch and the late Senator Ted Kennedy that helped torpedo what could have been the United States’ first big offshore wind project, known as Cape Wind, in 2017.) Many future offshore wind leases were extended in deeper waters, where the turbines would be hidden from view. Beachfront property owners can relax. Instead, fishing interests concerned about the impact on their business became the principal opponents of offshore wind.

Is it possible to fish near wind turbines?

While there isn’t yet a single wind turbine spinning off the coast of New Jersey, plans are in the works for new offshore wind installations that would provide carbon-free energy to more than a million homes over the next few years.

Thousands of new jobs are projected to be created by the wind farms, but Dameron thinks that those jobs and climate benefits will come at the expense of his business. Clam fishermen could lose access to very productive sections of the ocean if wind leasing areas across the mid-Atlantic are completely developed, according to Dameron, potentially sending the multibillion-dollar business into a “downward cycle.”

Dameron’s concerns are shared by fishermen across the country, who are concerned about the advent of a large new energy company in waters where many have fished for generations.

Under the Biden administration, offshore wind, which has long struggled to gain traction in the United States due to high prices, regulatory ambiguity, and vehement opposition from shoreside communities, is suddenly gaining traction. Joe Biden pledged in March to create 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030, enough to power 10 million homes and eliminate 78 million metric tons of CO2.

Fishermen believe they are being overlooked as a result of heavy political pressure to speed up offshore wind construction as part of the administration’s bigger effort to address the climate catastrophe. Many people claim that regulators aren’t taking their worries seriously, which vary from safety concerns around wind farms to how offshore wind growth will alter the ocean ecosystem and damage fish species.

According to Annie Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (Roda), a trade organisation representing commercial fisherman, offshore wind “is one of the most repeatedly recognized elements as a huge risk to enterprises and their methods.” “It’s a major, huge concern on fishermen’s minds right now.”

While the offshore wind sector in Europe has risen fast in recent years, with more than 5,000 turbines providing a combined 25 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity as of early this year, the United States has lagged behind. The US offshore wind fleet now consists of five turbines in state seas off the coast of Rhode Island and two research turbines in federal waters off the coast of Virginia.

Thousands of additional turbines are expected to be installed in lease areas spanning thousands of square miles of ocean in the future decades, allowing the US to catch up. Fishermen in the United States are prepared for the kinds of spatial conflicts that have erupted in Europe, where fishermen are frequently legally prohibited from fishing near wind farms and undersea cables, or have chosen to avoid fishing in their neighborhood owing to safety and liability concerns.

Lease areas coincide with very productive fisheries that bring billions of dollars to regional economies in the northeastern United States and the mid-Atlantic, where America’s first commercial wind farms will be developed. While the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has not declared any of these wind energy areas off-limits to fishing, fishermen in the United States and Europe are concerned that turbines and associated infrastructure, such as seafloor transmission cables and concrete foundations, will make it impossible for them to operate their vessels safely.

“What this is effectively developing into is thousands of miles of closed areas,” said Meghan Lapp, general manager of Seafreeze Shoreside, a seafood facility in Rhode Island.

Suspended transmission cables could obstruct fishing nets and create a “functional closure” for certain types of gear along the US west coast, where floating offshore wind technology is expected to be deployed due to the much greater depth to seafloor, according to Mike Conroy, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA).

“That is a really dangerous situation in terms of sinking a boat or loss of life,” said Daphne Munroe, a shellfish ecologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, if fishing gear becomes entangled with offshore wind turbines. Wind turbines can potentially interfere with navigational radar systems used by fisherman.

Fishermen are also concerned about the impact of large-scale offshore wind development on fish stocks and the environment. Noise from wind turbine building and operation could drive fish away, while seabed foundations could become artificial reefs, altering species distribution in wind lease regions. Wind turbines may also modify ocean currents, affecting the mid-Atlantic “cold pool,” a wide expanse of cold water near the seafloor that supports a variety of species such as scallops, clams, and flounder.

According to Aran Mooney, a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the large-scale, long-term environmental implications of offshore wind have not been adequately explored in US seas, and the types of studies needed to answer these concerns are expensive.

“There’s an adequate amount of research funding going into this,” Mooney said, “but there needs to be more to get at these deeper questions.”

BOEM is moving fast to assess and authorize offshore wind farms in federal waters, identify additional ocean areas for wind energy development, and organize lease sales in order to meet the Biden administration’s aim of expanding offshore wind development. The EPA hopes to complete an environmental study of at least 16 offshore wind farm development and operation plans by 2025.

According to Travis Miles, an oceanographer at Rutgers University who is researching the potential consequences of offshore wind on the mid-Atlantic cold pool, the speed of offshore wind development is “moving quickly relative to the volume of research on these problems.” “It would be a tragedy if we were to lose our fishing industry.”

According to BOEM marine biologist Brian Hooker, the government has funded “millions of dollars” for fisheries-related research in the Atlantic since 2009, on issues ranging from how fish travel across lease areas to how they are affected by artificial sounds and electromagnetic fields. BOEM suggested a new study to evaluate the spatial needs of the commercial clam business in the New York Bight, a highly fished area between New Jersey and Long Island where the agency would hold an offshore wind lease sale this year, in its fiscal year 2022-2023 research plan.

In June, the EPA issued a proposed sale notice for the New York Bight, which included many conditions targeted at assisting fishermen. A proposal for 2.5-mile-wide fishing vessel transit lanes in the planned Hudson South lease area, as well as a requirement that wind developers interact with the fishing sector and examine any “possible conflicts” when drafting construction and operation plans, are among them.

Some offshore wind developers are working to resolve issues raised by the fishing industry. As part of its development for Empire Wind, a proposed offshore wind farm south of Long Island, developer Equinor had a series of discussions with fishermen, drawing on its expertise working with the commercial fishing industry elsewhere. Equinor altered the configuration of the wind farm to incorporate an open area for fishing at the western boundary of the lease area, based on comments obtained during those talks.

Hawkins, who co-organized and attended the meetings on behalf of Roda, said, “Equinor met us halfway and negotiated something that would work well for everyone.”

Many spatial disputes have been avoided in Europe in recent years as a result of collaborative planning. However, substantive conversations between offshore wind companies and fisherman in US waters are currently the exception rather than the rule, according to Hawkins. Hawkins stated, “From our perspective, we’ve seen less true connection with fisherman” since the Biden administration began. “It certainly gives the impression that they’re going to be OK no matter what.”

BOEM will “continue to interact with commercial fisherman in order to avoid or mitigate possible consequences from offshore wind energy development,” according to Hooker. BOEM, he said, consults with the US Coast Guard and others at all stages of offshore wind development to see how navigation and fishing would be affected, and the agency attempts to avoid leasing the most heavily traveled areas of the ocean.

“The fishing sector still feels very strongly that they do not have a significant voice in the process or a real seat at the table,” Hawkins says.

What are the three most significant problems that offshore wind turbines face?

Corrosion, fatigue, erosion, lightning strikes, and biofouling are all issues in the design, manufacture, and operation of offshore wind assets.

Are offshore wind farms beneficial to fish?

Offshore wind farm-commercial fishing conflicts have largely occurred in the North Sea, Baltic Sea, and Eastern Atlantic. Member states who want to establish offshore wind farms are increasingly looking to MSP to help them resolve these conflicts.

  • Accidental damage to subsea cables, for example. Accidental damage and collisions with ships are big concerns. Snagging fishing gear poses a major risk to anglers since it can cause a vessel to capsize or tip over.
  • Species disturbance. Offshore wind farm construction and operation can disrupt mobile and sessile species, resulting in fish and shellfish resource relocation or decline.
  • Spatial exclusion has ecological effects. Even if it is voluntary in terms of risk aversion, spatial exclusion might result in a reduction in or loss of access to customary fishing areas. As a result, activity is shifted to other (possibly less profitable and/or less reliable) fishing grounds, putting more strain on those areas.
  • Spatial exclusion has economic repercussions. Increased steaming times can be caused by obstruction of navigation routes to and from fishing grounds. Small-scale fisheries may not be able to keep up with rising operating costs, and some fishing grounds may become inaccessible to small boats entirely. However, if developers must agree to co-existence with fisheries as a condition of gaining their license, the initial expenses will be higher.
  • Conflicts of a socio-cultural nature. Offshore wind farm and fishing issues can sometimes hide a larger conflict. Offshore wind farms may be seen by fishermen as the latest in a long string of limitations, affecting not only livelihoods but also a way of life.

Fishing vessels are not permitted to enter offshore wind farms in several nations. In the future, changes in risk perception models may ease these spatial constraints.

Is it true that animals are affected by offshore wind?

Offshore wind farms have the potential to harm marine mammals during construction and operation. The physical presence of turbines, building noise, underwater noise, boat and helicopter traffic, and other factors can cause mammals to avoid wind farms.

It’s tough to keep track of marine mammals while they’re alive and active. Fortunately, new, more precise technologies like as acoustic monitoring by stationary data loggers, remotely controlled video monitoring, and tagging of persons with satellite transmitters are supplementing or replacing traditional visual surveys from ships and helicopters.

Mammals rely heavily on their hearing systems, which are employed for a variety of tasks including communication among members of the same species, direction, prey detection, and echolocation. Marine mammals’ behavioural responses to noise include changes in usual behavior, movement away from noisy areas, masking of other noises, and the inability to acoustically assess the environment. Individual viability issues, increased disease sensitivity, and increased potential for impacts owing to cumulative effects from other influences such as chemical pollution paired with noise-induced stress are all possible outcomes of this disturbance (Greenpeace, 2005).

The noise measured by the German Federal Ministry of the Environment does not appear to harm marine animals’ hearing organs, but it is unclear how it will impact their behavior in the vicinity of the turbines. Although the sound intensity is moderate, it is persistent (until decommissioning), necessitating greater investigation into its impact on the behavior of marine species (Koeller et al, 2006).

Between 1999 and 2006, the Horns Rev and Nysted wind farms in Denmark conducted a comprehensive environmental monitoring program that included baseline investigation, building, and operating phases. The study’s centerpiece is the contrasting reactions of seals and porpoises. Due to the high sound levels in pile diving activities, seals were only harmed during the construction period. Wind farms appear to have had little effect on seals during the operation phase. The behavior of harbour porpoises at the two offshore wind farms, on the other hand, was quite different. The population of Horns Rev fell slightly during building, but returned to normal after operation. Porpoise populations in Nysted plummeted during construction, and the population only recovered after two years of operation. It’s unclear what’s causing this delayed rebound (DEA, 2006).

The Rosland seal refuge is 4 kilometers away from the Nysted wind farm. The presence of the wind farm had no discernible impact on seal behavior on land (DEA, 2006).

Wind farm foundations provide new habitats that are colonized by algae and benthic communities. This increased food availability may attract new fish and, as a result, animals. For mammals, this alteration could be neutral or even beneficial.

With the existing state of knowledge, estimating the long-term effects on reproduction and population status is extremely challenging. The potential for marine animals’ behavior to be altered as a result of the installation of wind turbines at sea is most likely a species-specific issue. Other aspects that need to be investigated include oceanographic characteristics (hydrography, bathymetry, salinity, and so on) and mammalian hearing systems (Koeller et al, 2006).

  • Long-term habitat loss as a result of disturbance caused by wind turbines that have been placed, as well as ship traffic during maintenance;

The methodology provided by Fox to help EIAs of the effects of offshore wind farms on birds illustrates the analyses’ enormous complexity. The interaction between offshore wind farms and bird impacts must be investigated by accumulating data on avoidance reactions, energy repercussions of habitat change and avoidance flight, and key species’ demographic sensitivity (Fox et al, 2006).

Note that boxes with a solid frame represent quantifiable effects, while boxes with a double frame represent processes that must be modelled.

Bird populations are most directly affected by collisions. Wintering waterfowl, gulls, and passerines collide at rates ranging from 0.01 to 1.2 birds per turbine in northwest Europe’s coastal locations. There hasn’t been any evidence of a large population drop. Collisions with rotor blades are unusual events at this wind farm, which is located within a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Protection Area under the Birds Directive, according to direct observations from Blyth Harbour, UK (Lawrene et al in de Lucas et al, 2006).

Large numbers of terrestrial birds could collide with offshore wind farms if visibility is low and they are attracted by their illumination. This, however, only happens on a few nights. Passerines are the most common victims of these collisions. One of the most effective mitigating techniques for avoiding this type of harm is to switch from continuous to intermittent lighting (Huppop et al, 2006).

Due to the difficulty of detecting crashes and recovering dead birds at sea, information on bird mortality at offshore wind farms is quite limited. To obtain reliable information on this subject, more research is required (Huppop et al, 2006).

Many of the key maritime bird species have insufficient data on migration patterns and flight behavior (Drewitt and Langston, 2006; Exo et al, 2003). However, this information is necessary for determining the potential effects of collisions and mobility restrictions (Drewitt and Langston, 2006; Huppop et al 2006). The huge scale of projected offshore wind farms, as well as the expected cumulative effects, highlight the need to close these gaps.

Various animals experience different levels of disruption. Several factors can influence the level of disturbance, including the availability of suitable habitats, particularly roosting and feeding locations, the time of year, flock size, and the wind farm structure (Exo et al, 2003).

Ships and/or helicopter activity, as well as noise generated by ramming piles, cause disruptions during construction. Following that, during the operation stage, boat traffic has an impact on birds (Exo et al, 2003).

Marine wind farms have a greater influence on sea birds (resident, coastal, and migrant) than on land birds. The increased height of marine wind turbines, the larger scale of wind farms, and the higher abundance of large bird species, which are more sensitive to disturbance, are the reasons for the higher impact at offshore installations (Exo et al, 2003).

After seven years of monitoring the Horns Rev and Nysted wind farms, the most relevant data show that they have little effect on general bird populations. The wind farms were avoided by the vast majority of bird species. Despite the fact that there was a lot of bird activity near wind farms, between 71 and 86 percent of flocks avoided flying between the turbine rows. Changes in flying directions were seen for most species at distances of 0.5 km at night and 1.5 km during the day. Although this avoidance results in an effective habitat loss, the fraction of feeding space lost as a result of the presence of these two wind farms is minor in comparison to the entire feeding area and is regarded of low ecological relevance. The use of avoidance behavior minimizes the likelihood of colliding with turbines. Because of the relocation of birds caused by wind farm installations, there is a low danger of collision between the two installations. The estimated collision rates of common eiders in Nysted were 0.02 percent, implying 45 birds per 235,000 passing through the area each autumn. Waterbirds (mostly eider) at the Nysted wind farm drop their fly altitude below rotor height, according to monitoring (DEA, 2006).

Flying, resting, and feeding between turbines are all affected by the avoidance found in Nysted and Horns Rev. New wind farm projects in the same area must be thoroughly investigated since they may result in significant habitat loss for particular species (DEA, 2006).

The cumulative effects of all the wind farms in the surrounding area, including cable connections to the mainland network, must be considered in EIAs on maritime ecosystems (Exo et al, 2003).

Many methodology on collision risk models, baseline surveys utilizing ship and aircraft techniques, and post-construction monitoring have been developed over the last few years. This information is required in order to accurately assess and forecast the long-term effects of proposed wind farms (Desholm et al, 2006). Radar and infrared cameras, among other advanced technology, have aided in gaining a deeper understanding.

The possible disturbance distances in unstudied ecosystems may be unknown due to a lack of understanding about specific species or taxonomic groups. The most appropriate method for determining the disturbance distance is to count the number of birds at various distances from the wind farm, ensuring that the entire impacted area is included in the study (Percival, 2003).

There is widespread agreement that further knowledge concerning the possible impacts of wind farms on birds is needed (Desholm et al, 2006; Drewitt and Langston 2006; Exo et al, 2003; Fox et al, 2006; Huppop et al, 2006). More study is needed on avian responses to wind farms, models to anticipate the future impacts of a single wind farm installation and groups of wind farms on an area, data collection on bird movements to build bird-friendly marine reserves, and data standardisation procedures.

Offshore wind farms can benefit from the same mitigation strategies that apply to onshore wind farms.