In the East Hampton Star 4/21/22
April 18, 2022
Much of the resistance to the South Fork Wind farm, currently being constructed 35 miles east of Montauk’s Lighthouse, has centered on the question of whether it might impact our local fishing industry. There have been numerous studies of marine species in Europe’s North Sea, probing whether their wind farms, in operation for more than 20 years, may have caused harm. They have not. Some species (like mussels) thrived, especially around the base of the wind turbines!
North America’s first offshore wind farm began operation in October 2016: The Block Island Wind Farm. Just last month (March 2022) a study was published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science examining whether the abundance of fish was affected by either construction (2014-2015) of the Block Island turbines, or operation (2016-2019) of the Block Island turbines. The study is available online as a pdf. It is a highly technical study that begs for a lay language summary.
The abundance of bottom species was assessed in the area of the Block Island Wind Farm and compared to two reference areas: to the south and to the east of Block Island. This was done both prior to, during, and after construction of the Block Island turbines, by monthly trawling. 663,970 fish, representing 61 species, were collected over 7 years. What stands out is the following.
No species were adversely affected by the construction or operation of the Block Island turbines. Black sea bass increased nearly 10-fold in the Block Island turbines area, but not in the reference areas, during operation 2016-2019.
During construction, there were surges in the frequency of spiny dogfish. One catch was too large to be brought on board! These are predators and their frequency is linked to that of their prey (Atlantic cod, herring, squid, butterfish, and mackerel). Maybe they were attracted to the wind farm because their prey was more abundant?
It is important to remember that an increase in a species may mean many different things. There could be increased food for the species. Or there may be a decrease in predators, etc.
The paper contains a ton of data not covered in this brief synopsis. The general gist, however, is that fish are doing well around the Block Island turbines.
I note that this study was authored by marine scientists of INSPIRE Environmental in Newport R.I. This is a company that performs studies commissioned and paid for by private enterprises, like Orsted, with a vested interest in wind farms. One author is an employee of Orsted. The study also relied on commercial fishing partners although these are not listed as authors.
This is a very valuable type of study. I hope it will be repeated as further wind farms are constructed all along Atlantic shores. I also hope that other entities (not only the companies building the wind farms) become involved in funding such studies.
DAVID POSNETT, M.D.