SPORTS

Turbine reefs could be largest expansion of underwater habitat in U.S. history

Posted 12/16/21

By CAPT. DAVE MONTI I am a fisherman that believes offshore wind energy and fishing can coexist and flourish together. We badly need offshore wind, and other renewable energy sources, to help stem the tide on climate change and its negative impacts on

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SPORTS

Turbine reefs could be largest expansion of underwater habitat in U.S. history

Posted

By CAPT. DAVE MONTI I am a fisherman that believes offshore wind energy and fishing can coexist and flourish together. We badly need offshore wind, and other renewable energy sources, to help stem the tide on climate change and its negative impacts on oceans, habitat, fish and fishing.

Sea level rise, habitat degradation, low water oxygen, ocean acidification and fish stock movement due to warming water have and are creating harm to fish and fishing on our waters locally, nationally and throughout the world.

I have often scratched my head when I hear fisherman say wind farm pylons and turbines are going to be bad for fish and fishing, as I have never experienced a piece of structure that has had a negative impact on fishing. This includes natural structure such as ledges, reefs and rock piles as well as manmade structure such as jetties, ocean platforms, docks and artificial reefs of all types.

Mussels and other organic materials grow on the structure creating life and attracting small fish and then bigger fish much the same way that a natural reef would.

Fish abundance in European wind farms that have been around for years is greater than fish abundance in control areas outside of windfarms. And, at the Block Island Wind Farm (the first offshore wind farm in America) in addition to mussels, scup, black sea bass and tautog at the base of the pylons and up the water column on the sides of pylons we have larger fish such as striped bass and bluefish. This year we had more pelagic fish in the wind farm area than ever before including bluefin tuna and mahi mahi.

So the science in Europe and at the Block Island Wind Farm is telling us that the structure created by offshore wind farms is having a positive impact on fish, habitat and fishing.

That is why I was pleasantly surprised when The Nature Conservancy and INSPIRE Environmental released their highly-anticipated report, Turbine Reefs: Nature-Based Designs for Augmenting Offshore Wind Structures in the United States last week. The report at www.nature.org/turbinereefs outlines an opportunity to create, enhance, and expand marine habitat for native fish, shellfish, and other species by creating artificial reefs at the bottom of offshore wind turbines.

In a press advisory The Nature Conservancy said, “To limit the worst effects of global warming and build a clean energy economy, coastal states are rapidly developing offshore wind power with plans to build more than 2,000 offshore wind turbines by 2035.”

From my perspective through fishing community collaboration with scientists, developers and government agencies we can benefit marine life by enhancing habitat and fishing while we stem the tide on negative climate change impacts with offshore wind.

The Nature Conservancy said, “Using an integrated approach when designing and constructing turbines can create new marine habitats in offshore waters for the first time, improve the health of fisheries, and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.” 

Tricia K. Jedele, The Nature Conservancy’s offshore wind policy manager, said, “Without clean, renewable energy, the health of our oceans is at grave risk. By creating turbine reefs in partnership with offshore wind developers, we highlight how offshore wind can be part of the climate and biodiversity solution. We can enhance marine habitat and generate clean energy at the same time…The creation of turbine reefs would provide habitat for a wide array of native marine life from South Carolina to Maine, including species important to commercial and recreational fishing sectors.”

The Nature Conservancy said, “Pylons require placement of a layer of rock and other hard materials around its base to prevent erosion. If scientists and engineers use nature-based design to select and purposefully place materials, native fish, shellfish, and other marine life would have many more spaces to live, eat, and reproduce.”

The Nature Conservancy has produced a short animation that demonstrates how nature-based design promotes reef growth at www.nature.org/en-us/what-we-do/our-priorities/protect-water-and-land/land-and-water-stories/wind-turbines-restoring-habitat/#animationvideo .

The report also includes a product catalogue of U.S. made materials that engineers can use to increase the ecological value of each turbine. It focuses on existing domestic products that can be used in or adapted for the offshore wind industry. 

We need to review possible negative impacts of offshore wind farms but just as important we need to be more open minded and explore potential positive impacts. At the Block Island Wind Farm commercial trawlers fish parallel to the wind farm, commercial and recreational rod and reel fisherman fish right up to the pylons, commercial gill nets and lobster pots are set up right in the wind farm area. This is how it should be. Multiple users fishing in the same area, all because the fishing is good in the wind farm area.

Hats off to The Nature Conservancy for following the science and suggesting that “Nature-Based Designs” at the base of pylons are good for habitat and fishing.

 

Where’s the bite?

Freshwater.

Anglers are reminded to renew their licenses for salt and fresh water for 2022. For licensing information and a list of trout stocked ponds in Rhode Island visit http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/fish-wildlife/freshwater-fisheries; and in Massachusetts visit www.mass.gov/freshwater-fishing-information

Cod and tautog fishing

Tom Giddings of the Tackle Box, Warwick, said,

Not many anglers are fishing in the cold weather and high winds we had earlier this week. But more are expected to fish as the weather improves as there still are tautog cod out there.” Anglers are reminded that their local bait & tackle shops have gifts for the angler at all price points. Consult with your shop owner as they can make suggests. Giddings said, “Just give us a call and we will make sure we are at the shop when you plan to stop by.”

Most cod fishing vessels are taking online reservations in advance. Cod fishing off Rhode Island and Massachusetts south of Cape Cod is a good bet in January. Party boats fishing for cod this winter include the Frances Fleet at www.francesfleet.com , the Seven B’s at www.sevenbs.com, and the Island Current at www.islandcurrent.com . 

Dave Monti holds a captain’s master license and charter fishing license. He serves on a variety of boards and commissions and has a consulting business focusing on clean oceans, habitat preservation, conservation, renewable energy, and fisheries related issues and clients. Forward fishing news and photos to dmontifish@verison.net or visit www.noflukefishing.com.

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