‘Done Playing Role in … Political Theater’: State’s entire fishing advisory board resigns in protest against offshore wind farms

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Every member of the Rhode Island Fisherman’s Advisory Board resigned on Friday in protest against the offshore wind farm projects being developed along the state’s coastline.

All nine members of the fishing regulatory board quit after the Coastal Resources Management Council approved an 84-turbine Sunrise Wind project last week.

Since President Biden signed an executive order in 2021 to double offshore wind development by 2030, the Rhode Island CRMC has approved five projects.

In a letter to the CRMC executive director, Jeff Willis, the fishing advisory board members stated that they refuse to participate in the process, accusing the CRMC of making “deference to offshore wind developers its top priority regardless of the requirements of the Ocean [Special Area Management Plan].”

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“I think Rhode Island seriously needs to rethink, does it want to be the Ocean State,” Meghan Lapp, a member of FAB, told WJAR-TV. “Or do you want to be the Windmill State?”

FAB chair Lanny Dellinger shared the letter in ecoRI News’ opinion piece titled “Fisherman’s Advisory Board Done Playing Role in CRMC’s Political Theater.”

“We as members of the FAB thought that the purpose of FAB/CRMC review was to ensure that offshore wind projects conformed to the requirements and restrictions of the Ocean SAMP. We were wrong. The Ocean SAMP process has been reduced to mere political theater, to which we refuse to lend any further credence by our presence,” FAB’s letter stated.

The advisory board claimed that the approval process had “become a mockery of what the Ocean SAMP was designed to accomplish.”

FAB accused the CRMC of not taking its regulatory role seriously and instead “advanc[ing] a policy agenda of offshore wind development above all else.” The board further stated that the CRMC had failed to consider “the cost to the environment, or the impacts to Rhode Island’s fishing industry.”

Fishermen worry that the offshore wind project will cause significant disruptions to commercial fishing. Additionally, critics continue to speculate whether the offshore wind farms are linked to the recent surge in whale deaths.

“We will not allow our names to be connected in any way to Council approvals now amounting to wholesale ocean destruction. Rhode Island is supposed to be the Ocean State, not the Windmill State,” the board concluded.

The CRMC replied to FAB in a Friday statement, noting it was “disappointed to learn of the resignation of the FAB members.”

“The FAB has provided valuable information and insight to the CRMC for its federal consistency reviews of offshore wind energy projects,” the state agency continued. “While unfortunate, these resignations do not affect the CRMC’s review scope, obligations and timelines. … CRMC remains hopeful that the Rhode Island fishing community will continue to participate in the public process for reviewing offshore wind energy projects, as well as any other projects affecting the fishery resources of the State.”

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