By Rep. Sherman H. Hutchins
There is no compatible mixing of wind turbines and fishing!
The endangered species of the Maine fishing family is already dancing around the newly announced National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) restrictions to protect the right whales from gear entanglement. Add several 10,000-ton floating wind turbines, and even more whale restrictions on the NOAA docket (98 percent gear reduction in 10 years), and you have a severely impacted Maine fishing industry. Special purple markings on their end lines prove Maine lobster fishermen are not entangling whales. This current regulation also includes a 1,700-pound breakaway feature that releases the gear 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 have been no right whale Maine lobster gear entanglements in 17 years. The recent addition by the Biden administration of additional restrictions, without evidence that Maine fisheries are contributing to the problem, defies science, logic and common sense. Maine lobstermen have been leaders in conservation efforts for decades.
The ever-increasing restrictions on where Mainers can fish is the problem. From east to west, the coast of Maine is already divided into seven lobster fishing zones that are considered under maximum pressure. Lobster fishermen are required to stay in their own zones. They can fish up to 49 percent of their traps outside their declared zones, but must get special permission and appropriate tags from the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Most decline to do so, because it would intrude on other people’s traditional fishing areas.
Imagine, what happens when these narrow corridors are further decimated by wind farms? What happens when Zone B shrinks to accommodate a floating array of wind turbines? There is no place for the Zone B fishermen to go, and no room in the other zones to double up. The fishermen (and our food supply) will be squeezed once again.
Although there is a 3-mile from shore moratorium on placement of wind turbines in state waters, some cables can run up 25 to 30 miles to get to the three-mile line. That is a lot of cable, with a substantial potential impact on Maine fishermen.
I fear NOAA is more a friend to the Green New Deal than to our fishermen, or even our whales. If NOAA determines the lobstering effort must be reduced, then what about the impact of wind turbines, anchor chains, electric cables, supply boats and cranes, etc., that will accompany the new industry? Won’t all that traffic and construction add to the whale “dangers”? If NOAA has concerns, it is not telling us.
In 2019, at a fishermen’s rally in Stonington with hundreds present, Governor Mills, Sen. Collins, Rep. Pingree and others were reassuring all those present how they, the fishing families of Maine, would be protected in their ancestral vocation. Were these promises hollow?
Talk is cheap, and these wind turbines eat money for little return in actual power. In Europe, the North Sea turbines are aging, with increasing maintenance costs for these behemoth structures. This in turn consumes taxpayer money. If we make a similar decision to go ahead with these expensive engineering experiments, aren’t we just creating costs to consumers down the road?
Remember Texas last winter? Wind turbines were immobilized by a cold snap. In Maine, weather typically makes ice offshore for months each year. When these concrete and fiberglass structures fail (and they will), clean-up will be next to impossible. Of course, we can collect and bury the fiberglass, and then leave massive areas of tangled concrete and steel on the ocean floor. Future fishing in those areas will be impossible, not to mention the exposed re-rod presenting yet another danger to sea life, including the right whale!
I believe 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 a technology that is proven to be costly and inefficient?
Republican Rep. Sherman H. Hutchins of Penobscot represents House District 131 (Dedham, Orland, Penobscot, Prospect, Stockton Springs and Verona Island) in the Maine Legislature.