By Paula Tracy,

HAMPTON – Fisherman David Gothel examines the potential for large-scale wind production in the Gulf of Maine and what changes it might mean for fish behavior, marine ecology, and life as it was known in the ocean for centuries.

“Europe built first and then studied later” the impacts on turbines in its waters, he said in a New Hampshire Environment, Energy and Climate Network webinar Monday evening.

People should also consider food security versus energy security when they look at impacts, he said.

“It’s just as vital, however, I don’t think it gets enough discussion,” he told about 60 people listening to his presentation titled “Planning for Offshore Wind and Sustainable Fisheries in New England.”

The main question discussed was can fishing and renewable wind harvesting coexist and what are the impacts?

Committee members said it depends on what is built where and who provides input into the planning.

The Gulf of Maine has no large wind farms yet.

But it has great potential to capture wind to produce electricity. However, it is located in the middle of one of the most productive, but rapidly warming, fisheries in America.

Dr. Lisa Mithrata of the New England Fisheries Science Center in Rhode Island said wind farms began in 1991 in Denmark and have spread across Europe while the United States is slowly building different types of turbines that are increasing in size.

Although Europe has sturdier types of foundations buried on the seafloor — each measuring about four square miles — in deeper water, as we have here in the Gulf of Maine, floating structures are more likely than those anchored to land, she said. . An underground cable connects the turbines to shore in all cases. The turbine has a lifespan of about 30 years before it is decommissioned.

Mithrata said impacts vary depending on types of construction, but global considerations should be given to habitat conversion, creation of artificial reefs, facilitation of invasive species, changing ocean physics, chemical pollutants from turbines, noise impacts especially on fish species, electromagnetic fields, and fishing operations.

Nationally, 1.7 million people like Gothel live on water and are responsible for $244 billion in economic output.

She said that Europe is not the same. There are different species of fish, different ocean topographies, and cumulative effects being studied now that are not necessarily limited to our region.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, is studying the bay and looking at the data in hopes they can find sites to develop wind production to reduce conflict.

The wind zone study is actually just getting started, said Sherri Patterson, marine resources manager for the New Hampshire Game and Fish Department.

One of the most important coastal fisheries here is lobster but there are also recreational fishing vessels as well as commercial vessels, and the department has concerns not only about the fish species but also about the birds and bats that now share the ocean and will have to deal with a new problem. The challenge if the turbines are here.

While there are about seven offshore wind farms in the United States, Rhode Island is the closest.
Tiffany Smith worked on a non-federal effort to develop the Block Island Wind Farm between 2014 and 2019. The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council conducted a careful analysis with the fisheries community to try to identify a site to minimize conflict, she said.

She said many members of the fishing community are satisfied with being heard through the process.
She said: “Who makes things easier.”

The bottom line from the speakers is that siting wind energy depends on many factors, that the analysis must be comprehensive, and that stakeholders must be heard as the process moves forward to find more renewable energy resources in the region.

The hour-and-a-half presentation was recorded and can be made available via email at

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