Fisheries group files legal challenge to BOEM Vineyard 1 decision

Written by Nick Blenkey
Guilty plea in pollution case

The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), a broad coalition of fishing industry associations and fishing companies, has filed a Petition for Review in the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals regarding the Secretary of the Interior’s July 15, 2021 decision approving the Vineyard Wind 1 offshore wind energy project.

RODA says the action is “the culmination of many years of conscientious participation by fisheries professionals only to see their expertise and value summarily ignored by decision-makers during the leasing process.”

According to RODA, the U.S. fishing industry harvests a renewable food source for the American people and provides vital services to coastal communities and the nation; in 2019, U.S. commercial fishermen landed 9.3 billion pounds of seafood valued at $5.5 billion. U.S. fisheries are held to a high standard of sustainability, but are “under increasing pressure from unfair competition with foreign entities that are able to circumvent stringent environmental oversight.”

RODA says that BOEM’s “hasty approval” of the Vineyard 1 project, “adds unacceptable risk to this sustainable industry without any effort to minimize unreasonable interference with traditional and well-managed seafood production and navigation.”

“This is a precedent-setting decision by BOEM, and it is critical that they get it right so that future projects are following a trusted roadmap instead of a flawed and dangerous example,” says Anne Hawkins, Executive Director of RODA. “Unfortunately, this lawsuit is the only recourse fishermen have to ensure the fishing communities’ concerns are addressed.”

RODA says that the fishing industry “has consistently voiced serious concerns about the Vineyard Wind project. Their main request is to be able to continue safe operations, but their heritage, well-being, and community structures have been systematically marginalized in the permitting process. The project design approved by BOEM would endanger fishermen by placing turbines too close together for fishing vessels to safely navigate in inclement weather or heavy seas. Based on their understanding of the connectivity of marine systems, fishermen have also repeatedly requested a cumulative impact assessment of offshore wind development to fish and protected resources. Unfortunately, BOEM has not taken a holistic approach to address the cumulative impact of offshore wind on the ocean ecosystem and shoreside communities. It is impossible to effectively plan a new ocean industry without such an analysis, especially one with such a large environmental footprint.”

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