NEW BEDFORD is not only the home to the only Marine Commerce Terminal on the East Coast built to handle the massive components of offshore wind turbines. It is also home to the top-grossing fishing port in the United States.
So the offshore wind industry that will be built off our coast over the next decade when 1,600 MW of power-producing turbines are erected 15 to 25 miles off Martha’s Vineyard will need to co-exist with New Bedford’s hugely important commercial fishing industry, which produced more than $329 million in landings last year. More than 90 percent of that total comes from scallops, which in recent years have been selling at nearly record high prices in an expanding global market. In addition, some 4,400 people work in the commercial fishing industry, which generates more than $1 billion in economic activity.
Not all of those are fishermen, who are limited in the number of days they can work each year by federal regulations that strictly limit how much fishermen, especially draggers and trawlers, can catch. It’s possible for the offshore wind industry to employ many of those workers when they are not at sea and are looking to supplement their earnings and benefits.
John Quinn, former state representative from Dartmouth, is the chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council, which looks out for the needs of fish, fishermen and fishing communities like New Bedford. He believes that offshore wind can coexist with commercial fishing in New Bedford — especially if offshore wind supporters can demonstrate clear benefits for those working in the fishing industry and can demonstrate that offshore wind activities will not harm fish or fishermen.