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Prime Fishing Areas and Offshore Wind

Construction of offshore wind farms will alter the existing habitats at each individual turbine location through the installation of foundations and offshore substations. Potential impacts to the marine ecosystem from offshore wind development can occur during varying activities that take place throughout the planning, development, and operational life of wind energy development.

There are four phases of development: preconstruction, construction, operations, and decommissioning. Impacts through the four phases may occur to fish species that are susceptible to acoustic surveying or noise generating and bottom-disturbing surveys.

Angler Insight

Recreational angler concerns focus on wind farm development near existing Prime Fishing Areas as having a high likelihood of creating habitat and species assemblage changes, impacting and preventing recreational fishing during construction, impacting recreational fishing through prohibition of access or through security boats around structures, and navigational hazards.

Several wind energy development projects are either leased or planned off the coast of New Jersey, which have the potential to modify prime fishing areas. Here we highlight three angler identified location concerns around conflicts between Prime Fishing Areas and these wind energy development projects.

“Offshore wind development poses a range of potential impacts to fish and fish habitat. Effective resource protection policies are necessary.”

Atlantic City Reef

This New Jersey State built reef is located 8.5 NM East Southeast of Absecon Inlet, NJ. The reef site is rectangular in shape and covers over 3,200 acres. With a surrounding bottom of sand and some shell, the reef is composed of many selectively placed sunken ships, tugs, tanks, barges, and even old Redbird NYC subway cars, as well as dedicated concrete reef balls, and construction debris. The reef lies in 94 feet of water and rises 45 feet off the bottom in some areas. This type of structure provides locally unique fish habitat and fishing opportunities for fish species such as black seabass and tautog, triggerfish, bluefish, and summer flounder. This PFA is sandwiched directly between two of BOEM’s active renewable energy lease areas for offshore wind projects.

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Fingers

This PFA is located approximately 35 NM offshore of Great Bay, NJ. It is an area comprised of sand and shell ridges that have formed into the shape of long sinuous fingers, hence the colloquial name given to the area by local fishermen. These ridges lie in 120 feet of water, and are predominantly used by fishermen targeting shark species such as mako or thresher, mahi mahi, and tuna species such as bluefin, and yellowfin. This PFA is located entirely within the BOEM’s New York Bight Draft Wind Energy Area (Secondary) proposed lease boundary.

Cable Routes

The cables necessary for bringing power onshore to the electrical grid will also impact or alter habitats. There may be changes in fish behavior due to electromagnetic fields generated by power cables and interruptions of migratory pathways. Cables will require routine maintenance throughout the life of the development.

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