Why the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association Opposes the Monhegan Wind Project
Off the coast of Monhegan Island, an experimtal two turbine (12 megawatt) floating offshore commercial wind project is currently slated to be built by a group called Maine Aqua Ventus. Aqua Ventus is a Maine-based partnership comprised of Emera Inc., Cianbro Corp., and the University of Maine. The commercial pilot project is designed to test the viability of floating semisubmersible concrete hulls called VolturnUS (designed by the University of Maine) which are held in position in the ocean by three marine mooring chains securely anchored to the seabed. If the technology is proven successful, Aqua Ventus hopes to build a 500 MW-scale project in the Gulf of Maine which will undermine the future of Maine’s fishing industries.
The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association is opposed to this project and what comes next if the experimental commercial site is successful. While the current project and outreach have been focused on the experimental commercial site, the expansion and creation of a large wind farm could mean the end of a way of life for much of Maine’s fishing industry. Working waterfronts throughout the state of Maine are disappearing as development projects emphasize new and outside interests over those of traditional Maine industries and cultures. Offshore wind is a new threat to fishing businesses as it has the potential to take away important fishing grounds that fishermen rely on to catch groundfish, scallops, lobster, and shrimp. While the Aqua Ventus project may be small in scale now, the long-term ramifications of this shift in ocean and waterfront use have not properly been addressed or even acknowledged.
Maine Aqua Ventus has spent the past ten years planning and developing this project, yet only now is it beginning the significant and necessary outreach to fishermen and fishing communities beyond Monhegan Island. We are particularly disappointed in the University of Maine’s failure to engage and address the very real concerns expressed by the fishing industry: as a Maine institution that has worked with fishermen in the past, they should have been more aware of this essential step. Rather than being included in the process to ensure minimal impact to Maine’s marine-based industries, fishermen are being asked to accept a predetermined future without giving their input. They are rightfully worried, scared, confused and outraged by what is being presented to them and feel as though they are under attack from those within their own community. This is no way for neighbors to behave as we strive to build a vibrant and sustainable future for our great state.
Warming oceans and other effects of climate change are impacting Maine’s fisheries, and reducing our carbon footprint is something Maine and the nation must work to achieve. Offshore wind is being touted as Maine’s answer to this problem. Unfortunately, focusing only on energy production as the solution to this issue undermines its complexity. Today, roughly 1/3 of all current greenhouse gas pollution comes from food production. As we look to a future with an increasing population and rising levels of meat consumption, emissions could increase 80% by 2050 from food production alone if meat-heavy American dietary habits are adopted by people rising out of poverty across the world. If it were possible for the world to transition to a pescatarian diet (one including only vegetables and fish) this increased greenhouse gas footprint would be essentially eliminated .
Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet. Taking away fishing grounds and fishing opportunities undermines our ability to harvest healthy, sustainable and low-carbon seafood locally. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, eating less red meat and moving towards a diet focused on seafood is better for the environment than giving up cars. If we continue to develop the oceans in ways that restrict fishing access, we will decrease the amount of sustainable seafood that American consumers have access to, increasing a reliance on protein food sources that have far greater greenhouse gas emissions. Our society does need new sources of energy production, but we also should be increasing our consumption of low-carbon local seafood and not undermining one of the greatest resources we have to slow climate change: our fishermen and the food they provide.
Our fishermen are stewards of the ocean, and they are fighting to ensure that future generations of Maine fishermen can continue this proud tradition and way of life and continue to feed their communities with healthy and sustainable seafood. Climate change is a concern for fishermen, but we strongly believe that there are better options for Maine to help reduce the creation of greenhouse gases. We should continue to expand solar energy production, explore land-based wind power, utilize biofuels when available, increase energy efficiency wherever possible, and encourage the consumption of local seafood. We ought to remove plastic, oils, grease, batteries, and foreign objects from the Gulf of Maine, not increase debris or amount of structures. The Gulf of Maine is a special place and fishermen want to keep it that way. We are against wind turbines, oil drilling, seafloor mining, or anything that could threaten the marine ecosystem, fishing industry, or the coastal Maine way of life.
 Tilman, D. and Clark, M. 2014. Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health. Nature 515(7528): 518-522
 Eshel, G 2014. Land, irrigation water, greenhouse gas, and reactive nitrogen burdens of meat, eggs, and dairy production in the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111 (33) 11996-12001