Offshore wind and fisheries research…while catching fish

I don’t get seasick. That fact has also been a blessing for my work in the commercial fishing industry — it’s hard to keep a job when you’re incapacitated while working on a big ocean swell or choppy seas. Secondarily, and more to the point of my CBE Summer Fellowship, my lack of seasickness also applies to reading and writing on boats. Over a summer in Alaska — where I started gillnetting for sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay then onto seining for pink and chum salmon in Southeast Alaska and longlining for halibut on the Gulf of Alaska — I read dozens of government and NGO reports, peer-reviewed papers, and media articles on how offshore wind development impacts commercial fisheries.

The F/V Sisu crew hauls a bag of pink salmon aboard while seining in Southeast Alaska. Photo by Nick Rahaim.

Whether on anchor or driving to and from the fishing grounds, I would make another cup of coffee as my crewmates napped, open my laptop and start reading and annotating hundreds of pages of science, policy, and, at times, propaganda on the growing conflict between the commercial fishing industry and offshore wind advocates. The fishing industry fears a loss of fishing grounds, ecosystem and oceanographic changes, and a loss of income — concerns that are not without merit.

As a mid-career graduate student, I have financial obligations that can make it difficult to balance work and my academic pursuits. The Center for the Blue Economy was kind enough to sponsor my research for the summer fellowship with an extended timeline. Now that I’ve done a deep dive on the topic while at sea, I’m now back on land in sunny California and ready to start interviewing stakeholders and experts on their work and advocacy.

By November, I hope to present a 40-page report analyzing the current science and policy proposals with stakeholder interviews and a list of recommendations to both develop the clean energy we need while preserving economically and ecologically sustainable fisheries.

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