NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) – With calamari being Rhode Island’s official appetizer, there’s no doubt squid is a lucrative industry in the Ocean State.
Ask a group of squid fishermen what it’s worth and they’ll be the first tell you that it’s priceless. Then they’ll say it’s worth about $1.2 billion.
However, those fishermen and the fish houses that process and freeze the squid are concerned about an offshore wind farm that will be built in the waters where they make their livelihood.
“Getting the public aware of what is potentially happening to their food source is crucial,” said Meghan Lapp of Fisheries Liason of SeaFreeze Limited, one of the many fish houses in Narragansett.
Vineyard Wind is proposing an 84-turbine offshore wind farm located 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Fishermen fear the wind farm will permanently displace the squid population, or worse, kill them.
“There are documented studies on cephalopods such as squid that showed that low-frequency underwater noise actually kills them, and operating turbines, not construction, but operating wind turbines produce low-frequency noise. It makes particles in the water move and essentially squid blunt force trauma,” Lapp explained.
Lapp added that squid only survive in their natural setting and cannot be farmed, so a loss of the local population could mean consumers would have to buy squid that is imported.
Fishermen say their concern isn’t just for this wind project, but what it will mean in terms of setting the precedent for future projects.
“What we’re talking for the east coast is tens of thousands of turbines for potential build-out. For example, the conglomerate lease area that is off of Martha’s Vineyard is larger than the state of Rhode Island,” Lapp said.
The focus now in Rhode Island is the federal consistency review which will make sure that the proposal is consistent with federal regulations.
While the wind farm will be located in federal waters, the state does have the right to determine if there is an economic impact on the state.
Grover Fugate, who was appointed by the state to look at this issue, told Eyewitness News that Vineyard Wind’s former lease areas within the geographical location description (GLD) did pose a potential impact on Rhode Island.
Vineyard Wind Spokesman Chris Hunt said in a statement that they have reduced the area by 20% percent to appease the fishing industry. The state also appointed a Fisheries Advisory Board to ensure that fishermen were accurately represented when looking at how the wind farm would disrupt their livelihood, the state’s economy and the taxpayer.
Fugate added that they must look at the impact the wind farm project has on the fishing industry and if the industry can still coexist with the wind farm. When asked if compensation was enough to cover the irreparable harm the wind farm could potentially have on the squid population, Fugate said, “Yes.”
How much compensation is the question.
In a statement sent to Eyewitness News, Vineyard Wind Spokesman Chris Hunter said:
“The Fisheries Advisory Board is an advisory body to the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council. On January 16th, Vineyard Wind proposed a $6.2 million Direct Compensation Fund to mitigate any direct impacts and a $23.8 million Ocean SAMP Fisheries and Wind Fund to ensure that Rhode Island’s fishermen are able to safely operate and grow side-by-side with our offshore wind project and other projects to come. Vineyard Wind’s discussions with the FAB [Fisheries Advisory Board] and CRMC staff are ongoing.”
The Fisheries Advisory Board has agreed with Vineyard Wind on a deadline of February 25th to solidify a compensation package.
On Feb. 21, the FAB allegedly met with fishermen to discuss a compensation proposal. Some fishermen argued it was a short notice for the meeting, especially on such a nice day when many fishermen were out at sea and not at the meeting.
Eyewitness News was told the meeting was private, despite the FAB being a state-appointed group and some fishermen inviting us inside. An Eyewitness News crew was told they would be briefed after the meeting, though each member refused to comment once the meeting was over.
Outside, when asked why Eyewitness News couldn’t sit in the meeting, the attorney said, “Because FAB didn’t want you there.”
Lapp said they’re not fairly represented in these meetings. An attorney herself, she said no members of fish houses, such as hers, have a seat on the Fisheries Advisory Board, though she said their concerns are being considered.