New Bedford, Fishermen Await Ruling on Fishing Grounds Lawsuit
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Lawyers representing northeast fishermen are waiting to hear a U.S. District Court ruling that would temporarily halt the lease of 127 square miles of ocean off the coast of Long Island.
In December, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management preliminarily awarded the $42.5 million lease to a Norwegian oil and gas company to build an offshore windfarm. Now plaintiffs, including the City of New Bedford and area fishermen, say that lease covers part of key fishing grounds and are suing.
Attorney Drew Minkiewicz says the sale was a small-minded decision. "This isn't fishermen against wind farms. This is fishermen against a regulatory process that allows private entities to go and condemn parts of the ocean without any public input," said Minkiewicz.
Attorney David Frulla, also representing the plaintiffs, says the 127 square miles of contested ocean is in one of the most-fished grounds for squid and scallops. "BOEM, based on some very, very sketchy data, has consistently insisted that only 1% of fishermen's income come from this area so it's really nothing to worry about. At the same time, though, they say that this intensively fished (in terms of dollar value) area than any other wind farm," says Frulla.
A motion filed last week on behalf of the plaintiffs would temporarily block the sale of the proposed area. A ruling on the motion is expected within the next few days.