How does offshore wind energy affect commercial fishermen?

Commercial fishermen rely on our ocean resources for their livelihoods. Offshore wind energy can result in both positive and negative impacts for marine ecosystems and access to these resources. Therefore, it is imperative that fishing activity, concerns, and knowledge are thoughtfully incorporated into the decision-making process in order to mitigate these impacts. Comprehensive efforts to avoid, minimize and create synergies should be taken, with mitigation being the last resort.

Socioeconomic Concerns of Commercial Fishermen in Regard to OWE Development

More topics are being added daily. Visit BOEM’s Previously Identified Offshore Wind Development Concerns and Socioeconomic Impacts of Atlantic Offshore Wind Development for more information. 

Loss of Access to Fishing Grounds

Construction of wind turbines in fishing grounds may result in informal exclusion if fishing vessel operators perceive or are not actually able to safely navigate the area, either in transit or while fishing. This exclusion could result in a decrease in fish landings and, ultimately, income for impacted fishermen. 

Potential impacts include:

Safety and navigation

Parallel to the loss of commercial fishing grounds, offshore wind farms may pose additional navigation and safety concerns.

Learn More

Tethys Navigation Research Dataset



Disruptions in Research and monitoring

There are some concern as to how OWE development will affect the quality of fisheries science used for managing stocks where the footprint of the offshore wind farm and of a managed stock overlap in ways that may limit monitoring. This limitation will hinder the reliability of data for stock assessment. This issue could lead to the mismanagement of stocks and inaccurate catch limits, which, in turn, could influence fishery landings. 

On May 28, 2021, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and NOAA Fisheries announced their commitment to implement NOAA Fisheries’ Federal Survey Mitigation Program. The program will evaluate existing survey designs, identify areas where OWE may disrupt the data and develop new survey approaches. 

Memorandum of Understanding Between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance

Development of a Strategy to Evaluate NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) Fishery Resource Surveys Affected by Offshore Wind Development


Fisheries Communication and Outreach Plan

Lessees and grantees shall work cooperatively with commercial and recreational fishing entities and interests to ensure that the construction and operation of a project will minimize potential conflicts with commercial and recreational fishing

  • Plan include a fisheries liaison who works for the lessee and a fisheries representative, who would be nominated by the fishing industry and may be funded by the lessee but us not directly employed by the lessee.
  • The function of these positions would be communication planning, identification of communication methods and frequency, outreach meeting facilitation and support, and other tasks for engaging and informing local fishermen during al project phases.
  • Plan must facilitate 2-way communication in addition to info sharing.
  • Plan must engage various fishing constituencies within project area (ex. Local ports).
  • Plan will indicate the process for filing compensation claims associated with lost of damaged gear attributable to the wind project.



Project siting, Design, Navigation and Access

  • During earliest planning stages, the lessee will meet with local fisheries groups for input on: wind facility configuration (including size, spacing and access route planning), minimization of scour and sedimentation, minimization o turbidity, cable route planning, installation and removal techniques, and dockside facility coordination.
  • Lessee will seek input regarding access by fishermen
  • Lessee will provide detailed guidance on safe navigation within and through the project site doing construction and operations.
  • Lessee’s Construction and Operation Plan (COP) will describe the possible use of exclusion zones, public mooring buoys expected, potential hazards to vessels and gear, etc.
  • Prior to construction, lessee is required to provide a detailed publicly available schedule that reduces conflict with fishing activity (fishermen representative determines the best schedule)
  • Timing of construction will include consideration of fishing schedules, high-use fishing areas, seasonal species’ distribution (spawning), and current closure periods.
  • Lessee will work with impacting fishing sectors to ID a construction schedule that minimizes impacts to all or more users to the extent possible and that avoids of minimizes conflict among user groups.



• Lessees and grantees shall use practices and operating procedures that reduce the likelihood of vessel accidents and fuel spills.
• Lessees and grantees shall avoid or minimize impacts to the commercial fishing industry by marking applicable structures (e.g., wind turbines, wave generation structures) with
USCG-approved measures (such as lighting) to ensure safe vessel operation. 


Environmental Monitoring Plan  

  • The lessees Construction and Operations Plan (COP) must provide a detailed environmental monitoring plan, including measures for incident reporting of any structural of environmental damage.
  • COP will easily convey: procedures for monitoring following storm events and routine inspections during operation, the identification of when and where maintenance will take place and identification of any safety zones necessary during that work, and the monitoring and maintenance plan will include procedures for communication with the fishing community during operations and maintenance activities.
  • Primarily applicable for construction, operations and decommissioning phases.


Financial Compensation

  • Lessee will consider direct compensation for gear loss or modification in order to develop or purchase “wind facility safe” fishing gear.
  • Level of financial support requires detailed discussions between impacted fishermen and lessee.
  • Lessee will consider monetary support for enhancing or improving fishing port or shoreside facilities, freezers, shelters, or other equipment.
  • Lessee will develop procedures for handling compensation to fishermen for potential gear loss and the loss/reduction of income as a result of OWE. —> lessee will evaluate historical fishing activities on the proposed project sites, temporal and areal restriction on fishing caused by OWE project, amount of fishing that would continue on the site once it is constructed, pressure on other fishing grounds by displaced fishermen, types of fishing methods employed at the project site, species of fish caught, and the estimated value of catch from the project site.
  • Fuel subsidy program could be implemented if fishermen have to fish further away.
  • Funding could be made available for updating safety equipment.




Potential Avoidance and Mitigation Practices

  • Arrange future turbines in straight lines along a consistent water depth where feasible.
  • Increased distance between turbines may make fishing among them more feasible.
  • Bury cables at least 6 feet into the sediment.
  • Consider lining up turbines along Loran or latitude/longitude lines, similar to reference lines that static and mobile gear fishers use to reduce conflict (static gear between certain turbines as markers may be an alternative).
  • In addition to latitude and longitude, provide information to fishers using Loran reference lines since many continue using Loran reference frames.
  • Consider employing fishers and their vessels to service the construction and maintenance of offshore wind facilities.
  • Invest in innovative gear adaptation such at automatic squid jigging.

Source: New York State Offshore Wind Master Plan Fish and Fisheries Study 

Resources for Commercial Fishermen

Government Agencies 

NOAA Fisheries

NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of the nation’s ocean resources and their habitat.

New England Fisheries management council

The New England Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional councils established by federal legislation in 1976, is charged with conserving and managing fishery resources.

Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the New England Fishery Management Council

This jointly managed webpage provides Mariner Updates and Notices to Fishermen, as well as, Offshore Wind Comment Opportunities. 

Non-Government Agencies/Organizations


The Responsible Offshore Science Alliance (ROSA), founded in 2019, is a nonprofit organization that seeks to advance regional research and monitoring of fisheries and offshore wind interactions through collaboration and cooperation.  

commercial fisheries research foundation (cfrf)

CFRF is a non-profit, private foundation established by commercial fishermen to conduct collaborative fisheries research and education projects.


RODA is a membership-based coalition of fishing industry associations and fishing companies committed to improving the compatibility of new offshore development with fishing. 

Other Resources

Socioeconomic impacts of atlantic offshore wind development

Reports summarizing previous fishing activity within each offshore wind lease or project area.

RODA Synthesis of science: offshore wind and fisheries

This project has purpose of enhancing regional and national understanding of existing science and data gaps related to offshore wind energy interactions with fish and fisheries. 

Guidelines for Providing Information on Fisheries Social and Economic Conditions
for Renewable Energy Development on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf

These guidelines provide recommendations for complying with information requirements.

Mitigation letter to boem

Topics identified by 9 states for continued discussions with BOEM to ensure the development of an efficient and effective compensatory fisheries mitigation strategy. 

Final Report on Best Management Practices
and Mitigation Measures (2014)

Development of Mitigation Measures to Address Potential Use Conflicts between Commercial Wind Energy Lessees/Grantees and Commercial Fishermen on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf

Oceanography, Vol. 33, NO. 4

December 2020 Special Issue on Understanding the Effects of Offshore Wind Energy Development on Fisheries.

BOEM Fishing FAQ Fact Sheet

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) answers frequently asked questions about commercial fishing and offshore wind energy development.