RODA says it’s being ignored

As Vineyard Wind 1 nears final decision, Hawkins fears indelible precedent.

RODA says fishermen's voices aren't being heard in the offshore wind development process.

Updated April 2

With America’s first industrial-scale offshore wind farm poised to receive final approval from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), fishermen continue to have reservations about potential impacts. 

Vineyard Wind 1, a 62-turbine wind farm to be situated in the Atlantic 15 miles south of Aquinnah, is expected to get that final approval — a record of decision — from BOEM within a month. 

Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), a coalition representing fishing interests, has taken issue with the project from the get-go, notably the transit corridors. These are the lanes between turbine towers vessels would navigate through. Vineyard Wind and other developers that have leased sections of New England ocean for wind development have agreed to 1-nautical-mile transit lanes. RODA has long demanded wider lanes, preferably four miles wide. 

That stance hasn’t changed, RODA’s executive director, Annie Hawkins, told The Times. Hawkins said a recommendation for wider lanes could have emerged from the project’s environmental impact statement, but that didn’t happen. Hawkins said the safe passage of fishing vessels, especially those towing any sort of mobile gear, is in question with the current spacing layout. It’s unknown if insurers will allow fishing vessels to travel inside Vineyard Wind 1 or the farms that will follow, Hawkins said.

“The underwriters won’t answer the question,” Hawkins said. 

Hawkins said squid, whiting, scup, and skate are active fisheries in the areas off Massachusetts and Rhode Island leased for wind farms. And while New Bedford’s multibillion-dollar scallop fleets don’t fish in the lease area, they do pass back and forth through it.

“We have a lot of scallopers at RODA,” Hawkins said. “They’re very concerned about the transit area.”

On the issue of transit lanes, and many others concerning offshore wind, Hawkins said RODA hasn’t been afforded the voice its members — fishermen — deserve. She said she was particularly concerned by standoffishness she claims the Biden administration is exhibiting with her organization. “They’re not reaching out,” she said. “They’re not being proactive. Everything is in a black box now.”

The Biden administration has continued to speak highly of offshore wind projects. 

“The offshore wind industry has the potential to create tens of thousands of family-supporting jobs across the nation by 2030, while combating the negative effects of climate change. These new jobs will cover a wide range of sectors, including manufacturing, installation, operations, and maintenance and support services,” BOEM Director Amanda Lefton said in a statement Monday. “We are committed to active engagement with all stakeholders and partners to ensure the responsible development of renewable energy resources in federal waters.”

Nevertheless, Hawkins also took issue with the stigma she says gets placed on fishermen in regard to offshore wind. “Fishermen are worried about climate change,” she said, “and are painted otherwise.”

In a March 29 press release meant to respond to a same-day announcement from the Biden administration that it intends to boost offshore wind, RODA leveled criticism at what it perceived as fishermen being sidelined.

“The Biden administration’s disappointing fervor over [offshore wind] advancement continues an ineffective approach toward addressing climate change begun by previous administrations, without demonstrating any willingness to include fisheries, ecosystem science, or our coastal communities in climate solutions,” the release states.

In a statement on its website, Vineyard Wind embraced the Biden administration’s announcement. “Vineyard Wind fully supports the Biden administration’s ‘all of government’ strategy to turn the potential of the offshore wind industry into reality,” Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen said in the statement. “By taking this approach, we can move quickly toward the goal of unlocking a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a new industry with good-paying American jobs while also achieving significant reductions in carbon emissions.”

Hawkins isn’t so bullish. As Vineyard Wind 1 nears approval, Hawkins said she fears it will become a flawed procedural template, something reviewed as a project that will be used as a policy model for all American offshore wind projects. Hawkins described the review process for Vineyard Wind 1 as “murky” and “damaging,” and underdeveloped for widespread use. RODA’s raising its voice now, she described as a “final shot before the project gets approved.” 

Hawkins said a fishing community petition that is included with the release asks BOEM and 

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to treat fishermen “as partners, not obstacles.” 

The petition states, “We stand willing to work with the administration to use our knowledge about ocean ecosystems to create innovative, effective solutions for climate and environmental change. There are opportunities for mutual wins; however, OSW is an ocean use that directly conflicts with fishing, and imposes significant impacts to marine habitats, biodiversity, and physical oceanography. Far more transparency and inclusion must occur when evaluating if OSW is a good use of federal waters.”

The petition goes on to call for a “holistic” national strategy for offshore wind farms “based on cost-benefit analyses, alternative ways to address carbon emissions, food productivity, and ocean health.” 

Offshore wind farms are in various stages of consideration and development up down the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards. They are geared to produce energy without the use of fossil fuels, which are the primary drivers of increasing temperatures on the planet. On Monday, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said climate change will impact everyone. 

“For generations, we’ve put off the transition to clean energy, and now we’re facing a climate crisis,” she said. “It’s a crisis that doesn’t discriminate — every community is facing more extreme weather and the costs associated with that. But not every community has the resources to rebuild, or even get up and relocate when a climate event happens in their backyards. The climate crisis disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income families. As our country faces the interlocking challenges of a global pandemic, economic downturn, racial injustice, and the climate crisis — we must transition to a brighter future for everyone.”

Updated to correct the number of wind turbines planned for Vineyard Wind 1.


  1. It appears a four-mile spacing would kill the economics of the project or so expand the project area into less favorable waters that it might not be feasible. Can the fisherman adjust their equipment so as to make a one-mile spacing work, or perhaps something in between? Or am I naieve? There is so much information about how current fishing gear is outdated and flawed in that it is not targeted enough for the catch sought, or it is not safe for marine mammals. Perhaps these wind projects could allocate resources to assist fisherman to achieve their goals in providing financial assistance to revise and refine their gear to meet all aspirations?



    There is just as much greed and potential harm to the environment in the GREEN INDUSTRY ( operative word ” industry” – which has no business being used in the same breath with the word Green”) as in any other billion dollar industry. We need to keep a watchful eye on them and not allow them to throw these things up all over the place willy nilly without careful, thoughtful, conscientious foresight with respect for the land, the sea, the air, and all its inhabitants, both human and non human. Homo Insapient : the ONLY threat to the planet needs supervision by conscious wiser eyes who must act as Guardians for the greater good of All.


  4. The wind farm cables will have the same potential for toasting fish as the existing power cables that have fed the Vineyard and Nantucket for decades. Do you know if they are bonded?

  5. I have been against wind farms being erected in Vineyard Sound to the north of the island as they would interfere with our commercial and sport fisheries…. both very important to our island economy , but feel the plan to build south of Aquinnah was a better option. As I side with the fishermen who are taking the coastal environment seriously, I am hoping that the government will meet RODA half way, and renegotiate some changes as needed to the wind farm plans. There is room for both environmental sustainability and thoughtful government planning so that the USA has a “win-win” outcome if we work together!

    • Seriously, fisherman will take all the fish they can.
      Seriously, the wind turbines will provide a place for fish to hide from fisherman so that can not be caught, so that they can reproduce.

  6. Ok– they shot down land based wind farms in this region.
    They shot down Cape wind, because it was too close to land.
    Now we have Vineyard wind– 15 miles off shore.
    I am sure there are reasonable people on both sides.

    Some will say that you can never get back the carbon footprint associated with the manufacture of the turbines, as it takes fossil fuel to make them. True for the most part, but as wind power becomes more widespread in the future, that will change.
    And just for the record— the monopiles are driven into the seabed, and rocks ( the perfect habitat for lobsters) are placed around them to prevent washing out by the tides. THERE IS NO CEMENT. — let me repeat that for the environmentalist who know that the manufacturing of cement produces a lot of carbon. THERE IS NO CEMENT in the foundations… NONE.
    And those that talk about the “carbon footprint” to build a wind turbine conveniently neglect to mention the carbon footprint to build a fossil fuel plant, and to transport whatever fuel they burn. It’s a false narrative.
    I also find it kind of amusing that no one is concerned about fish being electrocuted by undersea cables feeding the Vineyard and Nantucket. Two separate cables feeding the Vineyard broke in 2003. There was no ‘toasting” of fish in either incident.
    And really ? Fishermen are worried about only having one mile to pass each other?
    The recent event in the Suez canal tells us something about maritime navigation.
    The Evergiven at over 1200 ft. long and 180ft wide passes through that canal on a regular basis. The canal is apx. 1000 ft. wide for miles of it’s 120 mile length. And it is not a straight route.
    Fifty large ships — some bigger than the Evergiven pass through that canal every day. They don’t run into each other. And only one has run aground (I could not find any other cases–) in it’s 150 year history. Perhaps the trawlers could trawl somewhere else. It’s a big ocean out there. They don’t own the seabed any more than Vineyard wind.
    After all, the proponents of offshore wind have been told to go “somewhere else” for decades.

    Or , better yet, they could get into aquaculture, put lines up between the towers, and grow seaweed, mussels, and other things. And let’s not forget about all those lobsters that are going to move into the rocks around them — I am sure lobster boats can navigate in a area where there are poles placed a mile apart. Perhaps the age of “hunter gathering” in the ocean is coming to an end. What we are doing to the fishery now doesn’t seem to be working very well.
    I think it’s time to “share the seabed”.

    • Albert–I am not a fisherman.
      But I do know that the seabed does not “belong” to the fishermen.
      If it belongs to them, why are they allowing oil rigs to operate off shore ? In the gulf of Mexico alone, –in 2016– there were 45,310 miles of pipelines on the ocean floor.

      The oil industry by the way, has not posted a bond to cover any damage that may be caused by an accident. And in fact, those lines leak millions of gallons of oil into the “bathtub” every year. And guess what ? Right, they are not required to remove them or even drain them when they become obsolete. The average pipeline is about 20 inches in diameter. Simple math tells us that the oil industry will leave nearly 4 billion– yes– BILLION gallons of oil in rusting pipelines on the seabed of the golf of Mexico for future generations to clean up.
      And people are worried about what happens if some of these towers fall over ?
      Give me a break….
      Seems to me like the oil companies own the seabed.
      Does the airspace above our island “belong” to the pilots ?
      if we are going to have any sort of rational conversation about this, we need to deal with some sort of reality.

  7. There seems to be a lot of animosity towards our green energy partners and attempts to break wind projects in the area!

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