Today the Southern Shrimp Alliance (SSA) filed comments with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in response to their request for input regarding potential commercial wind energy leasing on the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). https://shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/SSA-Comments-on-BOEM-RFI-GOM-Wind-f-7-26-21.pdf
The purpose is for BOEM to determine whether to begin leasing to wind energy companies any portion of a very large area of the north central and western Gulf of Mexico from the Florida/Alabama border to the Texas border with Mexico.
SSA’s comments include a map showing traditional shrimp fishing grounds relative to the proposed leasing areas. The large area under BOEM’s consideration for wind energy development encompasses virtually the entire shrimp fishery operating in Federal waters west of the Florida/Alabama border. In addition, thousands of shrimpers operating in State waters will be impacted by the transmission lines needed to carry electricity to shore.
As described in SSA’s comments, among the shrimp industry’s many concerns are
- the siting of commercial wind energy facilities and transmission lines that will displace shrimpers from their traditional fishing grounds;
- multiple risks posed to navigation and the safety of human life at sea including disruptions to radar equipment that is so fundamental to both navigation and the ability of fishermen to monitor storms;
- the prevention and remediation of a range of adverse impacts on shrimp fishing grounds and operations both at sea and in port including ensuring wind energy companies have sufficient financial means to clean-up debris from facilities inevitably damaged or destroyed by increasingly frequent category 5 hurricanes;
- and even risks to sea turtle populations whose migrations to nesting grounds can be interrupted by electromagnetic fields given off by transmission lines. The shrimp industry is held strictly accountable for the health of sea turtle populations pursuant to Endangered Species Act regulations and may lose its federal authorization to fish altogether if these populations are damaged by offshore wind development.
The comments also make a request for BOEM to establish a formal process for consulting with the shrimp industry including SSA throughout this process.
According to BOEM’s request for comments, BOEM “may or may not issue a lease” for a commercial wind energy project within this area based on the comments it receives – clarifying that “a lease is only the first step” in BOEM’s process to review and approve a commercial wind energy project.
However, President Biden has made clear that offshore wind energy development is a high priority for his Administration. Several offshore wind projects in the Northeast region are moving forward rapidly with little or no apparent regard for the impacts on fisheries there.
According to John Williams, Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, “Wind energy development in the Gulf places the very existence of our entire fishery at an enormous risk. We must get on top of this from day one – virtually everything is at stake.”
The BOEM Request for Interest (RFI) can be found in the Federal Register here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/06/11/2021-12267/request-for-interest-in-commercial-leasing-for-wind-power-development-on-the-gulf-of-mexico-outer