By Sheila Dassatt
Many of you already know that my position is Executive Director of the Downeast Lobstermen’s Association. This is not a job to me, it is and always has been a special honor to represent our association, fishermen and their families. This all came to me sixteen years ago, almost seventeen years ago now. I have mentioned this before, but in the beginning, I asked “why me?” I was told that the fishing industry has been my background and that my family is generational on the Island, which is Stonington, Maine. My grandfather was born on Merchant’s Island, in which the Island was named after his grandmother, who’s name was Merchant. This goes back quite a ways…
OK, I know this article is not about me, but I am giving a little background. With this being said, I have been asked to do interviews with various news people that want to know what the “perspective” is from the fishermen’s point of view about the whales and wind power in the State of Maine. They have reached out to the Downeast Lobstermen’s Association for our take on all of these issues.
Well, when the research project first came up, with our participation that involved sitting in on the state government meetings that introduced the project, my first inclination was thinking that this is not going to go over very well. As a representative of our fishing industry, I did receive calls and conversation from our members and fishermen and their families. This was the very beginning of the subject, and I felt it was my responsibility to speak up and say that this will “not go over” at all with our fishing industry. And it didn’t and it hasn’t…
From this point forward, Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham introduced a bill for the 130th Maine Legislature named LD 101, which is An Act to Prohibit Offshore Wind Energy Development. Since that time, we have had various meetings with our Maine Fishing Associations and formed the Facebook site: Protect the Gulf of Maine. All of this has been a product of introducing this wind project, even though in the beginning it was labeled a research project off the Coast of Monhegan Island.
A Rally was formed on April 17th with the fishing associations hosting this to give information to our general public as to why this is not a good idea for the Gulf of Maine.
The fishing families and representatives were present, but we felt that the people that really needed to hear what was said, were not present. We really need to make it known how this will affect our fishing industry. Our livelihoods are at stake with this project and is an issue that we cannot afford. This is among the threat of the Whale Ruling, which we are waiting on as well. We are waiting on the outcome of the court to see what they will approve of and what they won’t.
I am not a scientist, but the Department of Marine Resources has meetings with our Zones that are explaining a lot of this end of it. They have reports, diagrams of the windmills and how they can possibly be laid out in the water. If you have any questions, I am sure that you can reach out to them and they will offer the information that you need.
I am told that the electric current from the windmills can affect the sonar of the whales and the blades spinning will have an effect on the birds, much as they had the same effect on the birds in the UK. There are pictures of these poor birds lying dead from flying into the blades as they unknowingly fly through them. We have spent many years now trying to gain progress with the ground fish industry. The cod are starting to show positive signs of coming back, which is in the same area that they want to put these windmills. This is not a good thing for our ground fishery at all. What makes the cables from these windmills any different than the groundlines of the lobstermen that the whales folks are upset about? There will be lines, underground cables and a potential for fuel leakage.
The wind mills are powered by diesel generators which can break down and leak. If this happens, the diesel fuel will leak into our ocean. This is another concern that we have about these mammoth turbines. With that being said, with the pandemic still happening, the fiberglass and polymers that build them is also creating a shortage of availability. We have boat shops which are also part of our fishing industry that will be suffering from the shortage of supplies. There are many facets of how this will have an impact on our industries in Maine. If you take a look at this newspaper that you are reading, you will see many fishing boats that are in the process of being built. At some point, this is apt to be put on a halt due to waiting for materials to come in to finish building them.
I could go on and on, but I don’t want to turn this into a rant, just an awareness and an answer to your questions that you have been asking us. Please take the time to read this and think over the realization of what is yet to come…potentially. Thank you.