Tension between the lobster industry and offshore wind developers are at a boil this week after a large protest by fishermen Sunday was followed by a confrontation Monday that caused the Coast Guard to be called in.

“We’re at war with windmills,” one fisherman told Press Herald Staff Writer Tux Turkel.

For the sake of everyone involved, let’s turn down the heat on that pot. The work being done now on behalf of the developers isn’t an act of war – it’s part of the effort to see how Maine can get the most out of its greatest resource.

The ocean has for generations supported families along the coast. It has provided income and a way of life for those who have captained a lobster boat, as well as for their employees and the suppliers and buyers who keep them going.

There’s no reason that has to change, even if the lobster industry has to begin sharing some of the ocean.

Offshore wind has great potential as clean energy and an economic driver for the state. While turbines attached to the ocean floor are becoming more common, particularly in northern Europe, the Maine project features a floating turbine.

A single 12-megawatt test turbine placed just south of Monhegan Island is planned to demonstrate the technology. If successful, it could be used in places all over the world. Any Maine-based companies or technology involved in the beginning of the project could potentially become part of an international supply chain.

The test turbine will be connected to the mainland grid by a 23-mile line that reaches to South Boothbay.

A boat, the 144-foot R/V Go Liberty, was surveying the seabed along the proposed route for that line when it was disrupted by three fishing boats. A spokesman said it became an “unsafe situation.” The Coast Guard was called.

Monday’s disruption followed a protest Sunday in which more than 80 lobster boats lined up between Monhegan and Boothbay Harbor. The protesters were raising awareness of the power line and the future development of offshore wind, which they say will ruin fishing in the area. The survey boat, some lobstermen said, has already damaged fishing gear.

New England Aqua Ventus disputes that allegation. The company also says members of the lobster industry are purposely interfering with their work. On March 13, the company located 221 lobster buoys marking traps along their route and asked lobstermen to remove them. By the weekend, there were 453 buoys.

Whatever’s going on here, it’s not helping.

Lobster fishing is a $485 million-a-year industry in Maine. It is part of the economy and culture of our state. It holds up entire communities.

Offshore wind isn’t there yet, but its potential is huge. The Maine project is cutting-edge and has received significant support, including $47 million from the U.S. Department of Energy and a $100 million investment from two green-energy companies.

Built out, offshore wind could be a major component of eliminating emissions and slowing climate change – which, by the way, is causing rapidly warming waters off the coast of Maine, threatening the lobster industry.

But to be successful, not only here in Maine but also across the world, the offshore wind industry is going to have to co-exist with marine activities.

And that’s the purpose of the survey – to find the best way for floating turbines to work in the Gulf of Maine without disrupting our traditional industries.

It’s a big ocean. It can fit both turbines and traps. For the sake of Maine’s future, let’s find a way.


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