Close to 500 Mainers gathered at the Civic Center in Augusta Wednesday, April 28 to oppose offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine. Organized by the IAMAW Maine Lobstering Union (Local 207), with support from Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA), and in partnership with the Downeast Lobstermen’s Association (DELA) and Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA), the rally sought to bring attention to the concerns of regular Mainers and Maine’s fishing communities who have been overlooked in the rushed siting and development for offshore energy buildout on the Gulf of Maine.
Fishermen voiced concerns regarding the unknown impacts to ocean ecosystems, marine habitats, and the fisheries that have supported coastal communities for centuries. While not always perfect, fishermen have been working to protect and rebuild the Gulf of Maine resources since the industrial foreign fleet was removed from federal waters in 1976. Maine fishermen who land lobster, groundfish, tuna, scallops, herring, menhaden and many other types of seafood are the stewards of one of the most productive natural habitats in the world and have been working with scientists and managers to build a sustainable fishery for future generations. The potential negative impacts that industrial scale power generation could have on Maine’s world-renowned fisheries has not been fully explored, and fishermen are asking that the appropriate process and consideration is given to these decisions before any construction begins on our wild oceans.
Matthew Gilley, a lobsterman from Harpswell, was one of the speakers at the event: “Maine lobstermen are stewards of the sea and partake in the most sustainable fishery in the world. Protecting it and its environment for centuries has been our goal. The state of Maine believes it’s a good idea to replace this way of life with unproven foreign-backed power plants in the Gulf of Maine and we disagree.”
Before today’s rally, Governor Mills announced her intention to submit a bill to prohibit the siting of offshore wind within three miles of Maine’s coast for the next ten years. While Maine’s fishing industry appreciates Governor Mills submitting this legislation, we believe the same caution must be given to offshore development outside of state waters as the technology and impacts on those fisheries is even less known than what could be used to produce energy within state waters. Maine family fishing businesses and fishing industry organizations will continue to ask for the state to provide a clear plan for offshore wind development, as well as a detailed plan outlining the potential of alternate green energy investment opportunities that will protect the Gulf of Maine, our natural resources, and Maine’s working citizens.
“Fishermen are on the frontlines of climate change. They are experiencing the impacts of warming waters on their businesses already and we should be taking care to ensure that the solutions to solving global warming do not come at the cost of Maine's rural communities and local food system. Today’s rally was a plea from Maine’s fishing communities to the Governor’s office to investigate the potential for offshore wind to solve the climate change crisis through a thoughtful, inclusive process, with a focus on solutions that are appropriate for Maine and its residents and not just push a technology UMaine is invested in.” Said Monique Coombs, of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.
The state of Maine received a two-million-dollar federal grant last October to conduct a comprehensive planning process, called Maine’s Offshore Wind Roadmap, intended to “focus on planning and data-gathering to support siting decisions, with the goal of minimizing potential effects on the environment and fisheries.” The fishing community of Maine is calling for the completion of this important roadmap before any floating or stationary wind energy industrial sites are selected in the Gulf of Maine.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day and we will not stop offshore wind with one rally,” said Virginia Olson of the Maine Lobstermen’s Union, “Augusta knew fishermen were here today, they know we are paying attention, and they know we are asking to be heard. We voiced our legitimate concerns about the impacts that this development will have on the Gulf of Maine which has been our home and supported our fishing families for generations. We are not going to be pushed out of the way.”