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Study: Offshore wind development could reduce surf clam catch revenue by as much as 15%

A juvenile Atlantic surf clam.
Wikimedia Commons
A juvenile Atlantic surf clam.

Offshore wind farms could reduce the catch of Atlantic surf clams in the mid-Atlantic, according to a new study from Rutgers University.

The research published last week was funded by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Rutgers associate professor Daphne Munroe found that the leases for wind projects could reduce surf clam revenue by 3-15% in the area from Virginia to Massachusetts. The fishery is worth more than $30 million annually.

The study did not include Maine, but adds to a sparse but growing body of research about potential conflicts between offshore wind and fishing.

Munroe says the revenue loss would primarily be caused by fishing restrictions in certain areas.

"It's not just that they would not be able to fish in a certain part of the ocean, but that they would have to go fish somewhere else, which might mean longer steam times, greater fuel costs, it might mean trips that return to the dock with less than a full catch, and all of that translates through the industry up to the processor level," Munroe says.

In a climate change conundrum, Munroe says the fishery for Atlantic surf clams is simultaneously at risk from warming ocean bottom temperatures and offshore wind energy development.

Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.