Members of the commercial fishing community are worried a proposed utility-scale offshore wind farm in Massachusetts could impact Rhode Island's lucrative squid industry.
Massachusetts recently selected a project bid from Vineyard Wind to construct and deploy 100 turbines about 15 miles off the coast of Martha's Vineyard in a federal wind energy area.
However, Meghan Lapp, spokeswoman for a Rhode Island-based commercial fishing company called Seafreeze Ltd., said the project, which requires underwater cables to connect the project to the regional electricl grid, was sited directly through and adjacent to squid fishing grounds.
"(Vineyard Wind) will need to put concrete mattresses over the cable, which will mean that squid vessels will not be able to tow their nets in that area because it will just destroy them," Lapp said.
Lapp said the Ocean State lands more squid than all other East Coast states combined.
She added the wind farm could harm the squid directly because spinning turbines produce underwater vibrations.
"It carries sound and particle force that essentially causes blunt force trauma to squid and it causes lesions on some of their internal organs, which causes them to die," Lapp said.
However, Erich Stephens, chief development officer for Vineyard Wind, said studies have shown those vibrations are not strong enough to have those types of impacts.
Stephens said the real concern for squid is during the construction phase of the project, but he said there is a way to lessen that impact since squid are migratory.
"What we’re doing now is spending a lot of time working with those scientists and fishermen to make sure we have a good understanding of that migration and then planning the installation of the cables in such a way that it gets done in a time of year that the squid aren’t really there," Stephens said.
Vineyard Wind is on track to begin construction in late 2019.
The company did not respond to a follow-up request for comment on concerns related to fishing nets.