Maine Marine Patrol officials and local fishermen have made headway over the last week in clearing fishing gear from a 23-mile long path being surveyed for an offshore wind development project, state marine officials say.
The monthlong survey for the New England Aqua Ventus project began earlier this month, but the presence of fishing gear on the path was making it difficult for the vessel conducting a survey of the seafloor to do its work, according to a project spokesperson and Maine Department of Marine Resources officials.
Fishermen were asked to move their gear in advance of the survey, but given the contentious issue of wind development of the Gulf of Maine, some fishermen felt they shouldn’t have to move their traps for a project that they feel threatens their livelihood.
Last week, the Maine Department of Marine Resources sent a notice to fishermen with gear still in the survey route asking that they voluntarily move their traps or else Marine Patrol officers would move the gear for them. The notice was sent after Marine Patrol identified about 240 lobster traps still within the survey route.
In the past week, Maine Marine Patrol officials have moved about 100 lobster traps from the path, according to Maine Department of Marine Resources spokesperson Jeff Nichols.
Fishermen themselves have also made “a concerted effort to move gear out of the route but weather has made that challenging,” he said.
The gear removal has resulted in “a significant portion of the survey route” being cleared, New England Aqua Ventus spokesperson Dave Wilby said.
While the survey was supposed to be wrapping up in early April, Wilby said an exact timeline for the rest of the survey is not yet known given the weather and gear-related delays the vessels have encountered.