Offshore wind farms expected to reduce income from clam fishing, study finds
A major East Coast shellfish industry is expected to suffer revenue losses as offshore wind energy expands along the northeast and mid-Atlantic coasts of the United States, according to two Rutgers studies.
The studies, which appear in the ICES Marine Science Journal (here and here), examined how planned offshore wind farms in the eastern United States could disrupt the Atlantic surf clam fishery, a major economic driver from Virginia to Massachusetts that generates more than $30 million in annual revenue direct. Total fleet revenue declines measured by the studies ranged from 3% to 15%, depending on the extent of offshore wind development and the response of the fishing fleet.
In New Jersey, losses could reach 25% for fishing vessels based in Atlantic City.
“Understanding the impacts of fishing exclusion and displacement of fishing effort from offshore wind energy development is critical to the sustainability of the Atlantic surf clam fishing industry,” said said co-author Daphne Munroe, 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 interconnected challenges are essential for developing and evaluating strategies that enable multiple users of the offshore environment.”
To measure the potential impacts of offshore wind farms on Atlantic surf clam catches, Munroe’s team created the Spatially Explicit Fishing Economics Simulator (SEFES), a computer model to help paint a full picture. dynamics of stocks, fishing and decision-making of the fishing fleet. .
“SEFES is essentially a virtual world that allows us to simulate the dynamics of fishing – from how captains navigate their boats to the impact of weather conditions on catches,” Munroe said. “But the model also has a layer of biology, which explains clam populations and how they change over time and space.” For example, climate change is already pushing the distribution of clams north; SEFES can explain this change.
To refine SEFES, Munroe and his colleagues worked closely with industry, including anglers who provided valuable feedback. “We showed them how the model worked and they told us whether our ratings were good or bad.” Feedback from fisheries managers and landings data were also used to ensure the model worked well.
Once the model was calibrated, Munroe’s team then sought to predict the impacts of future wind farms on Atlantic surf clam catches. In 2021, some 1.7 million acres of ocean have been leased for offshore renewable energy projects on the outer continental shelf. Surf clam vessels fishing in these areas must operate in restricted lanes or in methods that may be less efficient than in unrestricted areas.
These changes in fishing behavior will have costs that SEFES can calculate. “If anglers can’t fish in areas rented by the wind, they will fish elsewhere in places that may be less than optimal, changes that will mean longer hauls and potentially smaller hauls,” Munroe said.
The studies, funded by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, also determined the locations of the most vulnerable fleets and associated processors. At the top of the list are fleets based in Atlantic City. The least affected port in the simulations was New Bedford, MA.
– This press release was provided by Rutgers University