Expert Misinformed On Fishing, Wind Farm
Information reported about a recent public meeting concerning offshore wind turbines (The Dispatch, July 17) was both inaccurate and misleading.
Much of the misinformation concerned Meghan Lapp, whom the Dispatch described as “a noted expert on the impacts of wind farms on commercial fishing” who “serves on numerous fishery management councils … including the mid-Atlantic region”. Maybe she misled the reporter, or maybe he wasn’t prudent enough to check her bonafides, but neither of these statements are true.
As reported, Lapp works for SeaFreeze Ltd, and is associated with the Center for Sustainable Fisheries (CSF), a pro-fishing conservation organization in New England, so she is actually a spokesperson for the fishing industry. She does not “serve on” either the New England or Mid-Atlantic Fishery Councils, though her biography says she “attends” council meetings.
As for being “a noted expert,” I wonder by whom she is “noted.” She does not seem to have any background in marine science. She has not published or conducted research on impacts of wind turbines on fish, and apparently she hasn’t read much of it either because her “facts” were mostly fiction.
Published research on the impacts of wind turbines on fish and marine life (other than mammals) reveal three indisputable facts: 1. the structures provide hard substrate that creates habitat for invertebrates and fish that did not previously exist; 2. The turbines and the invertebrates on them attract large numbers of fish; 3. The turbines have little to no impact on other seafloor invertebrates or fish. Ms. Lapp’s statement that “fish prefer sand bottom” only applies to flounders, and certainly not to black sea bass, which require structured habitat. On these points, Monty Hawkins’ and I are in agreement (The Dispatch, July 26).
However, there is no convincing evidence that fish avoid turbines or their construction process (Monty’s comments notwithstanding). We have yet to test this on black sea bass, but may do so in the future. In fact, a recent study showed that the Block Island Wind Power site (in Rhode Island) had no net impact on flounders. Several species actually increased during the construction phase, which may benefit fish by disturbing benthic invertebrates and making them available as prey.
Having an honest public discussion about the impacts of wind turbines is a worthwhile endeavor, but requires factual information. Statements about Ms. Lapp’s credentials and wind power impacts do not hold up to scrutiny, regardless of the source. As a marine scientist, I just want people to know the truth, and to know who is telling them fish stories.
Bradley G. Stevens, PhD
(The writer is a professor of Marine Science at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.)
Keep OC A Fishing Town, Not An Oil Town
The White Marlin Open is a hallmark event in Ocean City. Last year, the tournament brought in more than 350 boats and 3,000 contestants – the comradery and excitement were palpable. The excitement this year is similar to last, but something has changed. We’ve all heard about the plans to open the Atlantic to drilling. For the first time, fishermen are facing the prospect of our fisheries being pummeled by explosive noise, and our waters tainted by oil. Could this be our last tournament before oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic changes fishing and the town of Ocean City forever? The Atlantic Coast Sportfishing Association hopes not.
Blasting the ocean with seismic airguns is the first step to offshore drilling. Huge arrays of airguns send deafening blasts toward the ocean floor in the search for oil and gas. The blasts go off every few seconds, for weeks or months at a time. The government has estimated significant harm to exposed marine mammals. Of particular concern are impacts to species like the North Atlantic right whale and other marine life. As fishermen, we are not only worried about what these blasts would do to keystone species like whales, but also fish like marlin, tuna and mahi. The Ocean City economy relies on a healthy and abundant ocean.
Observations following seismic exploration have revealed decreases in catch rates of cod and haddock by as much as 60 percent. One study found that within an hour of seismic blasts, there was a 60 percent drop in zooplankton abundance nearly three-quarters of a mile from the blast site. Zooplankton form the base of the ocean food chain and a disruption to these tiny organisms could spell disaster for the many creatures that depend on them.
And once the drilling rigs show up, the threats only increase. We saw what happened to marine life following the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion in Florida. We saw tar balls on beaches, fish die-offs and oil covered birds. Imagine the nightmare that would be for Ocean City.
Offshore oil can’t mean anything but trouble for our cherished white marlin. Seismic blasting and oil spills could disrupt their food sources.
When President Franklin Roosevelt called Ocean City the “White Marlin Capital of the World” after a 1939 fishing trip, we doubt he ever imagined that the bountiful waters would one day be threatened by seismic blasts, tar balls and oil slicks. The marine ecosystems that support our coastal way of life are too precious to be threatened for very little oil.
People all along the Atlantic have voiced opposition to offshore oil drilling and exploration. Those of us on the coast have the most to lose and our concerns should be considered before those of oil lobbyists. The government should listen to us and remove the Atlantic from the offshore drilling plan.
(The writer is the president of the Atlantic Coast Sportfishing Association, formerly known as the Atlantic Coast Chapter of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association.)
Patrol Support Appreciated
Last week the Ocean City Beach Patrol held its annual Crew Competitions and despite the unfavorable weather forecast, we were able to complete all the events safely and had lots of fun. Even the crowd of spectators was undeterred by the weather.
We want to thank everyone for their continued support of the Surf Rescue Technicians (SRT) for the work they do each and every day. We also want to express our appreciation to the many local business who sponsored the 18 crews we deploy along Ocean City’s beautiful beaches. Headlining those sponsors are Chic Fil A, the Ocean City Baptist Church, and Quiet Storm. These businesses provided every SRT with food, drink and a commemorative T–shirt, respectively.
Additionally, we had over 75 local business and individuals sponsor one or more of our 18 crews. Crew comps give purpose and reason for our crews who work together in a professional capacity all day long to compete as a team. A lot of the skills require athletics so it encourages our SRTs to work on perfecting the skills they use every day in doing the job. Our Crew Comps are a special evening for our employees – competitive in nature — but a lot of fun for everyone and we very much appreciate all who support us. Thank you Ocean City.
(The writer is the Ocean City Beach Patrol’s first lieutenant.)