Winds of Change, Pt. 2: Maine fishermen share concerns with proposed offshore wind farms

Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 2:58 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2023 at 5:45 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Earlier this week, we looked into incoming offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine from the economic and energy perspective.

But the Gulf is also a workplace for thousands of Maine fishermen whose business might be impacted by these floating turbines.

They share their biggest concerns with the “Winds of Change” in part two of this special report.


“I don’t think we own the Gulf of Maine,” lobsterman Stephen Train said. “But, we’ve been using it for so long, we have trouble with the concept of displacement, and it’s justified. We’ve been the caretakers. We’ve been harvesting a very successful resource, or multiple resources, out of this gulf managed very well for a long time.”

Thousands of lobstermen generations deep have used the fertile waters of the Gulf of Maine to make their living. But many today fear that offshore wind may just blow them out of the water.

“We don’t know how much the electromagnetic field around the cables going to shore is going to affect things on bottom,” lobster fisherman Clayton Philbrook said. “Will lobsters go near it? Will they crawl over them? Will it repel them? All of this is information that, as far as I know, there’s been no research done on it.”

Philbrook is not alone with his questions. The responses below came at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum after scientists noted much is unknown about how offshore wind will affect local fisheries.

“The evidence is damning.”

“You mentioned, ‘we need all these government agencies and educational institutions.’ But actually, we really need the fishermen who are out there every day.”

“By the time we have good science available, we’re going to already have a fairly large offshore wind development.”

“You have a s***-ton of problems to solve.”

Dr. Amrit Verma is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maine. He teaches a new course on offshore wind and says these concerns are being studied and considered.

“It’s a very transparent process,” Verma said. “Every stakeholder is being heard, involved, being catered.”

Verma doesn’t represent the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, but he endorses their plan, comparing it favorably to those overseas.

“Currently, we’re in Stage One before it goes to the approval process of construction and operation,” Verma said. “That’s why it takes a long time. They look at everything.”

It might be more than just the fisheries that are impacted. At least 18 whales, including an endangered right whale, have washed up along the Atlantic Coast since December.

Some New Jersey politicians have drawn a link with the timing of local acoustic surveys for offshore wind.

It’s a topic that lobstermen up in Maine are watching closely, as federal attempts to regulate Maine fishing gear to protect the whales persist.

Officials say there’s no connection to date between offshore wind and the deaths.

“Based off of the best available science and looking at the hearing thresholds of the whales, and the level of energy that comes from those survey instruments, the determination is that there would not be any injury or harm to whales,” Zach Jylkka, BOEM renewable energy program specialist, said.

Maine’s fishermen know there are elements they can’t control - but are standing united in their values.

“We know the process is going forward, whether we like it or not,” fisherman Terry Alexander said. “The president wants it, the governor wants it, everybody wants it, right? So, let’s get together and make it the least impactful on us that we can.”


In case you missed Part 1 of this special report, which outlines the state’s goals and potential benefits from offshore wind, you can find that here.