Yamaha-Sponsored Kenai Classic Roundtable Sparks Discussion Of Offshore Wind Effects On Fishery Management

Offshore wind is being planned and is really imminent across the U.S. and [we] have a chance now to get ahead on the science and planning of offshore wind energy.

Soldotna, AK — The 10th Annual Kenai Classic Roundtable sponsored by Yamaha Rightwaters™ included a robust discussion on the possible effect Offshore Wind (OSW) could have on fishery management and access, led by Andy Lipsky, Offshore Wind Program Lead, NOAA® Fisheries, and Mike Waine, Atlantic Fisheries Policy Director, American Sportfishing Association®. Both speakers shared concerns and sought input on solutions to meet the challenge of coexistence between OSW and healthy fisheries.

Lipsky reported a surge in the number of OSW projects in recent years, with 2.3 million acres leased in the Atlantic, 373,000 acres leased in the Pacific and 734,000 acres leased in the Gulf designated specifically for OSW. He also addressed five key scientific requirements to design OSW that can coexist with fisheries:

  1. Establish scientific data and support planning
  2. Mitigate impact on existing science assets including surveys and sampling
  3. Research and monitor to understand the effects on the ecosystem
  4. Advance the science and mitigation of unavoidable impacts
  5. Identify and fill mismatches in governance

“It’s critical that we establish the science, data and planning support for these processes before we have lines on the map,” said Lipsky. “Offshore wind is being planned and is really imminent across the U.S. and [we] have a chance now to get ahead on the science and planning of offshore wind energy. One-to-two years of pre-construction monitoring is insufficient to calculate a statistical mean.”

Lipsky went on to explain the challenges of coexistence could be caused by the construction of OSW, which prohibit research vessels and aircraft from deployment in wind fields. This could create blind spots where no sampling can occur and introduces uncertainty into estimates-of-abundance of managed species. OSW could also change patterns in marine life behavior and movement. He made a plea to collect fisheries data before the OSW projects begin to help mitigate development risks.

“If we don’t get to count them [fish], then they don’t exist. So, that’s a major risk,” Lipsky continued. “If we have positive interactions, we want to make sure that we can account for that increased productivity. That can have a downstream effect on our stock assessments.”

Speaking on behalf of the American Sportfishing Association® (ASA), Mike Waine demanded OSW developers establish a fisheries engagement team with experts from each fishery.

“In order to understand what impacts have occurred from these projects, I have to know what the status was before the project went into place,” said Waine.

The panel concluded the discussion by asking for fishery monitoring standards, working relationships with offshore wind developers and federal leadership to ensure standards are met that promote ocean co-use between OSW and fisheries management policies to maximize marine biodiversity.

Additional panel participants included Representative Mary Peltola (D-Alaska); Ricky Gease, Director, Alaska State Parks; Steve Chon, Alaska Director of BLM; and Doug Vincent-Lang, Commissioner, Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

About KRSA

Established in 1984, Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) is Alaska’s leading fishery conservation organization. KRSA’s mission is to “ensure the sustainability of the greatest sportfishing river in the world – the Kenai. KRSA’s area of responsibility encompasses the Kenai River watershed, greater Cook Inlet Basin and Alaska.” Located in Soldotna, Alaska, KRSA is a 501 (c) 3 charitable non-profit, with a dedicated team, a committed board of directors, and a core of passionate volunteers, members, and supporters.

With the generous support from sponsors and donors, KRSA has raised and leveraged millions of dollars that have helped restore sensitive fish habitat, provided responsible angler access, advocated for meaningful sport and personal use fishing opportunities for local food security and enhanced socio-economic values, advanced information through research on fish, habitat, and economics for management of sustainable fisheries, and educated the public, anglers, and youth on stewardship of fishery resources.

A significant portion of KRSA’s fundraising efforts have included the Kenai River Classic fishing events. The Roundtable has become a key element of the Classic focusing on a breadth of fishery, environmental, and conservation topics featuring nationally-recognized field and topical experts.

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