Menu Close

‘A lot of people are upset.’ Vineyard Wind compensation offer for fishermen stirs worries

'A lot of people are upset.' Vineyard Wind compensation offer for fishermen stirs worries
Commercial fishers who are sharing part of their customary fishing waters with Vineyard Wind may be eligible for compensation through the developers’ Fisheries Compensatory Mitigation Program — one that offers a $19.1 million bucket for Massachusetts fishers to dip into, and a combined $7.5 million for fishers from other states who’ve routinely plied the same area in recent years.

“It’s focused on fishermen who have traditionally fished in the area,” said Crista Bank, fisheries manager for Vineyard Wind.

So, in order to be eligible, fishers will need to show they’ve fished within the project’s lease area forat least three yearsbetween 2016 and 2022.

Captain Eric Hesse moves his fishing boat, Tenacious II, over to the offloading area at Sesuit Harbor in March 2023.  In 2023, he was among a number of Cape Cod fishermen employed in supporting Vineyard Wind's offshore wind farm construction south of the Islands. "Who knows how that fishery may be affected," he said recently of the wind farm. "It's a sticky thing and a lot of people are upset."

It’s meant to bring relief to fishers already limited by regulations and allowable catch volumes, though there are many questions among fishermen, as well as criticism that there isn’t enough funding, the eligibility criteria are too limiting, and the program doesn’t take into account the effects fishers who work outside of the lease area may experience.

A joint venture of Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, the 804-megawatt Vineyard Wind project is under construction in the shallow waters of the outer continental shelf 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. There are 62 turbines, each a mile apart, planned for the nearly 261-square-mile lease area. Five of them became fully operational on Feb. 21.

Fishers do face interruptions, Vineyard Wind says

While fishing continues to be allowed in the area and will remain an authorized use even when the project is complete, it’s recognized that fishers do face interruptions to their routines that could translate to losses in landings, Bank said.

“They’re definitely going to be impacted during construction,” she said, explaining there will be temporary closures to fishing around areas where turbines are actively being erected.

She also acknowledged there could be disruptions owing to the sound of boats and machinery through the area during development. Later, fishers will also need to adjust to fishing within the wind farm if they are comfortable doing so. Or “maybe they’re not as comfortable to fish where all of a sudden there are structures there,” she said, and choose to reduce how much territory they cover, or move on to other areas.

A key, said Bank, is “they don’t need to show that they have an economic loss” in order to be eligible for compensation, and they can still fish in the area even if they are also receiving compensation.

“They may not economically have a hit from it, but they might. We’re trying to cover this,” she said.

‘A lot of people are upset’

In the fishing community, there are many questions and concerns.

Eric Hesse, chairman of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance board, said most of the fishing in the lease area is by dragging. The sandy bottom there is a habitat for fluke, or summer flounder, one of the most important commercial and recreational flatfishes, according to the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. It’s also habitat for longfin squid, skates and monkfish, as well as a fishing area for scallops, sea clams and ocean quahog. But pelagic fish, like tuna — which he fishes for — also migrate through the area.

“Who knows how that fishery may be affected,” he said. “It’s a sticky thing and a lot of people are upset.”

Seabed changes cause uncertainty

Veteran fisherman Bill Amaru, who is a member of the Alliance’s fisheries working group, recognized that fishers who use trawl nets are also uncertain about the safety of using this fishing method in the area once the turbines are all up and running. It’s not so much the turbines themselves, he said, “it’s the cables that run between them.”

Although the cables are buried, “the seabed changes considerably,” he said, and trawling fishers have worries about cables becoming exposed and then their equipment getting caught on them.

It’s a concern shared by fisherman Ed Barrett, who fishes out of Marshfield and Plymouth, as well as out of Nantucket and Hyannis seasonally, during squid season in April and fluke season in June. His boat is a dragger.

“Although they promise the cables won’t become unburied, the tide runs so hard out there and the bottom shifts, it’s all sand. When you’re trawling that area, if you get caught (on cables), you’re not going to get off of it very easily,” he said.

Cables buried five to eight feet deep, Vineyard Wind says

Bank said the cables are buried five to eight feet under the seabed. She understands there are concerns, and there are considerations fishers will need to navigate if they choose to fish in the lease area. They will need to keep distance from turbines for safety, she said, which becomes more dicey with trawlers.

“When you’re dragging equipment behind you, there’s a lot of other forces on your gear,” she said, so mobile gear fishermen may be more comfortable fishing there when the weather is calm. With time, “they might build up to thinking, ‘OK, it might not be so bad'” to fish within the lease.

Amaru said fishing is a very adaptive lifestyle where fishers have to respond to changes that occur naturally. He sees the issue as “an evolutionary thing” — “you just have to adapt,” he said.

But there are other questions fishermen have, as well, such as how the wind farm may affect the behavior of fish that now come to the area to feed and spawn. Will the fish move elsewhere? Will they spawn less, resulting in less stock? Will pelagic fish change their migration patterns affecting fishing outside the lease area?

“We don’t know what the electrical energy is going to do to fish that are very sensitive to energy. These animals operate in ways we don’t even understand,” Amaru said. “It may be that productivity is greatly reduced in and around these areas. These are questions that are only going to be answered over time.”

More competition in other fishing areas

Barrett said another issue is around whether or not fishers who presently ply the waters in the lease area will now move into other territory and cause more competition for species that are restricted by ever increasing quotas and regulations.

“This results in a lower quota in the state for those fishermen in Nantucket Sound,” he said.

Barrett also feels that participation in the program is “very restrictive,” and that it’s “woefully underfunded.”

Amaru, on the other hand, thinks the fundings “might do a pretty good job of covering the Vineyard region,” but he wonders what happens over time as more more wind development happens.

“Vineyard Wind is just the beginning,” he said.

Bank said there will likely be “some type of compensation” offered by other projects.

‘We want people to apply’

“What makes it challenging is each company might approach it differently. Like I said, for (Vineyard Wind) you don’t have to show economic loss to be eligible,” but other companies may not be the same. She noted there is an effort to create a regional fund that will be available across a wider region, and address the concerns and questions that only time will answer, “but it’s not quite developed yet.”

The offshore wind developer is “learning a lot” from this first project, touted as the nation’s first commercial scale offshore wind endeavor. For now the focus is on those fishers who have regularly used the Vineyard Wind lease area, and it’s “a good opportunity” to apply for compensation.

“We want people to apply. The funds are there, and we don’t get the money back if fishermen don’t apply. It just rolls into a state fund. There’s no incentive to make this hard,” Bank said.

The $19.1 million for Massachusetts fishers, and the $7.5 million for others — $4.2 million for Rhode Island, and $3.3 million for other states including Connecticut, New York and New Jersey among them — was negotiated through the Coastal Zone Management Act.

“We had to work with agencies like NOAA and the states to figure out how much of an economic impact that area has on certain states,” Bank said, explaining that economic data and fishing footprint data was used.

“Basically, Massachusetts had more landings from that area, which is why their number is bigger. Rhode Island had quite a bit, but not as big as Massachusetts,” she said. “There’s landings from other states, but the amounts are smaller.

Compensation program administered by third party

The program is administered by de maximis, inc., an independent third-party administrator, with support from local fixed gear and mobile gear fisheries advisors. The third-party administrator’s point of contact is Major Sharpe, who can be contacted at

Vineyard Wind is not involved in the administration of the program, application review process, payment determinations, dispute resolution, or other program functions, the company noted in a release. The program will continue until Vineyard Wind 1 is decommissioned.

“Throughout the development of Vineyard Wind 1, we have focused on building relationships with local fishing communities while ensuring that each of these vital industries can co-exist to the benefit of the entire Northeast region,” said Avangrid CEO Pedro Azagra in a statement. “By launching this program we are making good on our promise to work with the fishing industry to address financial impacts related to the development of this project, and we encourage any commercial fishermen affected to apply for eligibility.”

Fishers have until June 3 to apply for eligibility and qualify for compensation payments based on defined eligibility criteria. It is important to note that this timeframe is the only opportunity that fishermen will have to qualify for compensation over the life of the program.

The program is open to commercial fishing vessel owners/lessees in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island who can demonstrate historical fishing activities in the lease area, OCS-A 0501; and shoreside businesses in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Information about the shoreside business portion of the program will be available at a later date, according to the company.

To apply, and for more details about qualifying, visit

Heather McCarron writes about climate change, environment, energy, science and the natural world, in addition to news and features in Barnstable and Brewster. Reach her at, or follow her on X @HMcCarron_CCT

The Cape Cod Times is providing this coverage for free as a public service. Please take a moment to support local journalism by subscribing.

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: $19.1M offered to fishermen in Vineyard Wind area. What to know.

Source link

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *