SSA Executive Director John Williams has written to NOAA Administrator Dr. Richard Spinrad urging the agency to work in partnership with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in evaluating offshore wind energy development in the Gulf of Mexico.
Copied on the September 28, 2021, letter are: NOAA’s Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, Janet Coit; National Ocean Service (NOS) Director, Nicole LeBoeuf; and BOEM Director Amanda Lefton.
The letter notes that “the shrimp fishery is the most valuable fishery in the GOM, and the shrimp industry is at the core of the economies of numerous coastal communities throughout the region”. It calls on NOAA to “apply its expansive scientific competence to ensure such development is conducted in a sustainable manner that protects the future health of marine ecosystems in the Gulf and the fisheries that depend on them.”
In the letter SSA identifies a broad array of potential impacts of offshore wind energy development in the GOM including, among others:
– Displacement of the shrimp fishery from traditional fishing grounds and the associated adverse socio-economic impacts.
– Damage to shrimp fishing gear caused by debris and exposed transmission lines.
– Risks to safety of life at sea caused by obstructions to navigation and the effects of turbine operations on sea-state.
– Depletion of the health of protected species populations such as endangered sea turtles, coral habitat, and other species for which the shrimp fishery is held strictly accountable.
– Displacement of shrimp vessels, processors and associated shoreside enterprises from working waterfront space and facilities essential to the fishery and processing sectors.
To minimize these potential impacts, SSA goes on to request that NOAA and BOEM apply the same analytical spatial planning approach developed by NOS for its offshore aquaculture planning process as “the most useful tool for supporting this critical decision-making. This includes suitability modeling and mapping of the full range of relevant civilian and military marine activities in the Gulf along with those elements of the marine ecosystem that would be vulnerable to the cumulative impacts of new, wind energy-related ocean stressors”.
As further noted in the letter, the NOS spatial planning work has the benefit of more than 15 years of precise scientific data on shrimp fishing effort collected and analyzed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and that this same data must be applied to BOEM’s marine spatial planning for offshore wind energy development in the GOM.
As Mr. Williams concludes in his letter: “NOAA and BOEM must partner and collaborate in applying this marine spatial planning approach using the best scientific information available while fully engaging the shrimp industry and all other established ocean users in an open and transparent decision-making process for developing offshore wind energy in the GOM