Deepwater Wind says it can coexist with commercial fishermen

PROVIDENCE – Saying it wants to be “a good neighbor” to commercial fishermen, Deepwater Wind – the company with wind energy turbines off Rhode Island’s coast – announced Thursday it has adopted what it calls “first-of-its-kind” procedures to avoid damaging fishing gear.

Beginning this month, Deepwater said it will provide fishermen with frequent updates on its offshore activities, and the company is requiring all its vessels and personnel to comply with the initiative.

The procedures involve Deepwater’s fisheries liaisons and a team of fisheries representatives in regional ports, as well as online updates for mariners and twice-daily updates on VHF channels.

While Deepwater expects there will be only “limited impact” on fishing gear, the company said it also has adopted a process for handling claims of loss and damage of fishing gear.

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“We know that offshore wind and all other ocean users can coexist – we see that happening every day at (our) Block Island Wind Farm,” Deepwater CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said in a statement.

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“We are committed to working with the commercial fishing industry and ironing out our differences. We want to be good neighbors out there,” he added. “We’re taking this important step because it’s the right thing to do.”

The company said the procedures were developed in “close coordination” with the commercial fishing industry and were based on “extensive feedback from fishermen in ports up and down the Atlantic coast.”

Local officials applauded the move.

“The issue of gear loss has come up consistently from the commercial fishing industry in the context of offshore wind development,” said New Bedford Port Authority Executive Director Ed Anthes-Washburn.

“We appreciate Deepwater for listening to those concerns and developing a transparent process for dealing with this important issue as offshore wind farms are developed,” he added.

“The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association is grateful for the dedication of Deepwater Wind toward the commercial fishing industry by creating an avenue online to easily report gear conflicts,” said Beth Casoni, the association’s executive director.

Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Blake@PBN.com.