Guest Commentary: Offshore Wind is Just What Gulf Anglers Need

Originally posted in Galveston County – The Daily News.
To read the original post or to listen to this story, click here.

By Scott Hickman, a founding board member of the Charter Fishermen’s Association and a charter fishing captain with decades of experience fishing the Gulf.

For people like me, fishing is a way of life. I’ve spent my entire career fishing professionally in the Gulf. And I want the next generation to have the same experience I had. That’s why so many Gulf fishermen know our industry needs offshore wind.

The reason is simple: Offshore wind turbines are biodiversity magnets for fish and other marine life. Big stretches of these waters are lifeless plains. But planting permanent structures on the seabed creates a habitat for fish species. It’s no coincidence that some stocks of fish were decimated by removal of oil platforms in the past few decades.

Offshore wind is an opportunity to bring them back.

This really isn’t a partisan issue. Most of the folks I work with out on the water are conservative, family values, small-business-owning Texans, many of whom are even skeptical about man-made climate change.

But they all support bringing offshore wind to the Gulf. Why? Because it’s good for fishing. Simple as that.

That’s why the Charter Fisherman’s Association — the largest charter fishing group in the Gulf — voted unanimously to support offshore wind development in the Western Gulf.

It’s not just good for fishing, either: The whole Gulf stands to benefit. The whole marine industry supply chain will grow when we start putting steel in the water. Offshore wind means more work boats, more crew boats and more fish — which means more fishing fleets, more fishing tourism, more tax dollars and more jobs.

For all these reasons, Gulf offshore wind should be a no-brainer. But for some reason, our leaders in Texas have been fighting to stop it. People like the railroad commissioner have said offshore wind “endangers” the Gulf by “harming delicate ecologies and vital industries.”

But offshore wind would pour money into our marine industries — including the supply chains that support our oil and gas industry. In fact, offshore wind development looks a lot like oil and gas development in all of the right ways. It uses the same infrastructure, same workforce, same skills.

That’s also why their “concerns” about ecosystem impacts just don’t make sense. We’ve been shooting geophysical surveys in Gulf waters for the better part of a century without creating any of the problems they claim to fear.

And credit where credit is due: The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management got it right in the Gulf. From the very beginning, it worked with our industry, the wind industry, port directors, other government agencies, academics, and conservation groups to make sure every part of the Gulf economy — and our ecosystems — can thrive together.

For the sake of the Gulf economy, we need our leaders to change course. Last week’s lease sale shows state policies are critical to establishing a market here. It’s no accident that the only offshore wind lease area to get any bids was in Louisiana — which has come out in support of offshore wind — while the Texas areas got none.

The opportunity is still there. Our offshore oil and gas history makes Texas especially well positioned to become an offshore wind powerhouse, because these industries have a ton in common.

We’ve already got the infrastructure, the workforce and the knowhow. Offshore wind is coming to the Gulf one way or another. The only question is whether Texas will continue to be an energy and fishing industry leader, or get left in the dust.

Scott Hickman is a founding board member of the Charter Fishermen’s Association and a charter fishing captain with decades of experience fishing the Gulf.