Offshore wind farms are expected to reduce clam fishery yields, study finds

The important East Coast oyster industry is expected to experience revenue losses as offshore wind energy develops along the coasts of the Northeast United States and the mid-Atlantic, according to two Rutgers studies.

Studies appearing in ICES Journal of Marine Science (over here And the over here), how planned offshore wind farms for the eastern United States could disrupt Atlantic fishing, a major economic driver from Virginia to Massachusetts that generates more than $30 million in direct annual revenue. Overall declines in fleet returns measured by the studies ranged from three percent to 15 percent, depending on the scale of offshore wind development and the response of the fishing fleet.

In New Jersey, losses can be as high as 25 percent for fishing vessels based in Atlantic City.

said co-author Daphne Munro, associate professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

“Tools that can predict and manage these complex and interrelated challenges are essential to developing and evaluating strategies that allow multiple users of the external environment.”

To quantify the potential effects of offshore wind farms on Atlantic surf catches, Monroe’s team created the Explicit Spatial Fisheries Economics Simulation (SEFES), a computer model to help paint a comprehensive picture of stock dynamics, fisheries, and fishing fleet decisions.

“SEFES is essentially a virtual world that allows us to simulate the dynamics of fisheries – from how captains navigate their boats to how weather affects fishing,” Munro said. “But the model also has a layer of biology, which explains clam populations and how they change over time and in space.” For example, climate change is already driving clam distribution northward; SEFES can explain this shift.

To fine tune SEFES, Munro and his colleagues worked closely with the industry, including fishermen, who provided valuable feedback. “We showed them how the model worked, and they told us if our assessments were true or false.” Input from fishery managers and data from landings were also used to ensure the model worked well.

With the model calibrated, Monroe’s team next sought to predict the impact of future wind farms on surf crops in the Atlantic. As of 2021, approximately 1.7 million acres of ocean are leased to offshore renewable energy projects on the outer continental shelf. Atlantic surfboards fishing in these areas must operate within restricted lanes or in ways that may be less efficient than in non-restricted areas.

These changes in fishing behavior will have costs that SEFES can account for. “If fishermen can’t fish in wind-leased areas, they will fish elsewhere in potentially less-than-optimal locations, changes that will mean longer trips and possibly smaller transfers,” Munro said.

The studies, funded by the US Office of the Ocean Energy Administration, also identified the locations of the most vulnerable fleets and their associated treatments. Topping the list are the fleets located in Atlantic City. The port least affected in the simulations was New Bedford, MA.

– This press release was provided by Rutgers University

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