On October 31, 2022, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced its final designation of two Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) in the Gulf of Mexico, located off the coast of Galveston, Texas and Lake Charles, Louisiana. In selecting these sites, BOEM collaborated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and chose areas that “have the least conflict with other uses and the lowest environmental impact.” Comments received by the agency on its draft WEAs also “helped inform the final WEAs.”
Integral to this decision-making process was the robust participation and consistent efforts of the Southern Shrimp Alliance to avoid, minimize, and mitigate any harm to the Gulf commercial shrimp fishery from the pursuit of offshore wind projects. Since BOEM’s initial assessment of interest in offshore wind energy development in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) over a year ago, SSA has substantially and meaningfully contributed to the agency’s understanding of how offshore wind energy development will potentially impact the operations and sustainability of the commercial shrimp fishery, the most valuable commercial fishery in the Gulf.
As the Southern Shrimp Alliance explained in comments submitted to BOEM in July 2021, these impacts concern not only traditional shrimp fishing grounds, but also extend to shoreside businesses, coastal communities, and the overall health of the marine ecosystem. Later, the Southern Shrimp Alliance encouraged NOAA to consult with BOEM regarding spatial planning in a September 2021 letter. At the beginning of this year, the Southern Shrimp Alliance summarized the concerns of the commercial shrimp fishery and the unique challenges that offshore wind energy development pose to the industry in a January 2022 letter to BOEM.
In total, the Southern Shrimp Alliance took advantage of every opportunity to communicate the industry’s concerns with BOEM, holding numerous meetings and filing formal comments with the agency no less than eight separate occasions over the past two years. Through this engagement, the Southern Shrimp Alliance was able to provide industry-specific data and views as to how to potentially avoid, minimize, and mitigate any adverse impact from offshore wind energy on the commercial fishery in the Gulf. These efforts appear to be reflected in the agency’s final designation of WEAs, which specifically exclude well-documented areas of moderate to high shrimp fishing effort and together comprise less than 2.3 percent of the original Call Area acreage.
Central to this win-win result was the extraordinary state-of-the-art spatial suitability modeling NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) performed in consultation with BOEM and the Southern Shrimp Alliance to deconflict offshore wind energy development in the Gulf with the shrimp industry and other ocean users, as well as with those protected species and sensitive habitats for which the shrimp fishery is otherwise held accountable under federal law.
The Southern Shrimp Alliance believes that BOEM’s announcement demonstrates the important role that industry stakeholders such as SSA can play in the agency’s development of an effective and balanced approach to offshore wind energy development in the Gulf, and that the spatial suitability modeling approach taken in the Gulf should be the model applied nationwide.
“The Southern Shrimp Alliance is deeply appreciative of BOEM’s consideration of our concerns and recommendations to avoid and minimize adverse impacts on our fishery and the coastal communities that depend on this fishery while developing draft Wind Energy Areas,” stated John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “At each stage of this endeavor, SSA has worked with BOEM and NOAA’s NCCOS to develop a well-informed and thoughtful approach to wind energy development that accounts for the Gulf shrimp industry’s interests and responsibilities, and the industry is extremely grateful for the many opportunities to provide its inputs.”
Read BOEM’s October 31, 2022 press release, “BOEM Designates Two Wind Energy Areas in Gulf of Mexico,” here: https://www.boem.gov/newsroom/press-releases/boem-designates-two-wind-energy-areas-gulf-mexico
Review the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s July 26, 2021 letter to BOEM here: https://shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/SSA-Comments-on-BOEM-RFI-GOM-Wind-f-7-26-21.pdf
Review the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s September 28, 2021 letter to NOAA here: https://shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/SSA-letter-to-NOAA-Admin-Spinrad-GOM-offshore-wind-f-9-28-21.pdf
Read NOAA’s November 24, 2021 letter in response to the Southern Shrimp Alliance here: https://shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/NOAA-Spinrad-response-to-SSA-re-GOM-Offshore-wind-development-11-24-21.pdf
Review the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s December 16, 2022 letter to BOEM here: https://shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/SSA-Comments-to-BOEM-Call-for-Information-Gulf-Offshore-Wind-12-16-21-f-1-1.pdf
Review the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s January 7, 2022 letter to BOEM here: https://shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/SSA-comments-BOEM-Fisheries-Mitigation-Guidance-1-7-22.pdf
Review the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s February 3, 2022 comments to BOEM submitted through Regulations.gov here: https://www.regulations.gov/comment/BOEM-2021-0092-0004
Review the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s July 28, 2022 comments to BOEM submitted through Regulations.gov here: https://www.regulations.gov/comment/BOEM-2022-0036-0046
Review the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s August 2, 2022 comments to BOEM submitted through Regulations.gov here: https://www.regulations.gov/comment/BOEM-2022-0033-0028
Review the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s August 31, 2022 comments to BOEM submitted through Regulations.gov here: https://www.regulations.gov/comment/BOEM-2021-0092-0057