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Fishermen can now get paid if Vineyard Wind hurts business

Workers watch as an offshore wind turbine blade is stacked on top of another at Vineyard Wind on Thursday, June 8, 2023, in New Bedford, Mass.
Raquel C. Zaldívar
/
New England News Collaborative
Workers watch as an offshore wind turbine blade is stacked on top of another at Vineyard Wind on Thursday, June 8, 2023, in New Bedford, Mass.

Vineyard Wind is inviting fishermen to apply for compensation if they’ve been impacted by the offshore wind farm 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

Fishermen have 90 days to show they’ve historically used the lease area and a third party administrator — with the help of fishing representatives — will decide how to divide up a $19.1 million pot through the Fisheries Compensatory Mitigation Program to Massachusetts fishermen.

Rhode Island fishermen will have access to $4.2 million, and $3.3 million will be divided between fishermen in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. The area may have been used by those who target everything from squid, to clams, scallops, lobster, and more.

“I feel good about this mitigation fund,” said Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association. “Vineyard Wind is the first offshore wind developer to have steel in federal waters and to come out with their mitigation plan.”

Plus, she added, the funds start at construction rather than completion of the wind farm, which is better for fishermen.

“The impact [of Vineyard Wind] will be real because [fishermen] cannot fish in there while they're constructing it,” she said. “And the ecosystem is being disturbed to a level that they anticipated 100% decline during construction. So if you're making $50,000 in that lease area, that's a $50,000 hit you're going to lose.” 

Fishermen who demonstrate use for at least three years between 2016 and 2022 through vessel trip reports, chart plotter data, or by other means, will get annual checks with amounts decided by a third party for five years, then they can reapply. Fishermen do not need to demonstrate economic impacts from construction, operations, or decommissioning activities.

“We started to work with the commercial fishing industry to help us design the program to make sure that we weren't making the program too onerous on them,” said Crista Bank, fisheries manager for Vineyard Wind. She said she hopes this fisheries fund contributes to a relationship with fishermen.

“I’ll be very hesitant to say the word ‘trusting us’ but they're seeing that we're actually trying, trying to work with them, and it really best for us [if] the fishing industry [is] economically viable and healthy, because we're going to be working alongside each other for the next 30 years.” 

Compensation will also be available to shore-side businesses like fish buyers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. That application period is expected to open in the next 6 months to a year.

“I really just want to encourage as much participation as possible,” said John Harker of Avangrid, one of Vineyard Wind’s two parent companies. “What we don't want to see is a fund being established and a fund not being used.” 

The application closes June 3, 2024. It is the only opportunity that fishermen will have to qualify for compensation over the life of the program, which will continue until Vineyard Wind 1 is decommissioned.

The company will address questions at three events this month, including the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association’s annual weekend and industry trade show between March 22-24. Information about these events is available at www.vw1fisheriescomp.com.

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.