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Follow The Money

The annual Maine Fishermen’s Forum in Rockland is a bellwether of the industry. Fishermen, scientists, regulators and federal agencies present 30 to 40 seminars on what is and what will be influencing the industry. Over the Forum’s 36 years there have always been a few topics that are tip of the iceberg presentations. Twenty years ago groundfish regulation changes were the hot topic.

This year the largest number of seminars concerned shellfish – clams, scallops, oysters and mussels. Two topics on the radar screen, rising ocean acidity and offshore wind energy were discussed in two and one seminars respectively. It is not that these latter two are less important, they might be the two most important at the Forum this year. Ocean acidity has both implications that are not fully understood and a known but unreachable solution in the near term. Ocean acidity also has known and direct negative effects on the shellfish discussed in 7 seminars this year.

The seminar on offshore wind and marine spatial planning was important more for what it did not address. The Bureau of Ocean Energy (BOE), an alias bestowed on the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service following it’s mismanagement of the Deepwater Horizon disaster last summer, oversees oil and gas production, as well as offshore wind energy development.

Wind energy areas along the east coast have been identified and the BOE is pushing forward for the prospective lessee’s. In the process they are not considering the federally managed fisheries already in these areas, nor asking the regional fishery management councils for real input. The embattled Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound has no doubt led to an end run around some stakeholders being put into the BOE toolbox.

No one with even the faintest pulse can deny the immediate need to radically reduce carbon emissions. The Coastal Marine and Spatial Planning initiative calls for integrated agency planning, this BOE approach is not that.

Additionally, oil companies are prospective lessee’s. If the oil companies’ influence on the development of offshore renewable energy is anything like their killing of the electric car a decade ago we could lose the hope for renewable offshore energy in the near future, as well as the fishing grounds on these leases.

Oil industry profits and their grip on the Congress are second to none. Follow the money.


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