The variety of activities taking place in New Jersey’s coastal waters – from renewable energy production and pipelines to shipping, maritime tourism and fishing – and how they interact with each other can create myriad complexities and affect the benefits and costs associated with marine resource use.
A proposal by Earth and Environmental Studies professor and Clean Energy and Sustainability Analytics Center Director Pankaj Lal seeking to research some of these potential implications has been accepted by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Offshore Wind Research and Monitoring Initiative (RMI) for a $440,000 grant that will support two years of research.
The project is supported through a $26 million fund administered by the state that received initial funding from two offshore wind developers as part of the Board of Public Utilities’ second offshore wind solicitation award.
Research on impact of offshore wind projects in New Jersey
The project, titled “Monitoring the Socioeconomic Impacts of New Jersey’s Offshore Wind Development on Recreational Fisheries Economy,” will develop a recreational fisheries and tourism baseline for Offshore Wind Farm (OWF) development that can be used to monitor its evolution, including the nature and size of OWFs’ potential effects on recreational fishing.
Lal is the project’s lead investigator, alongside Montclair Earth and Environmental Studies collaborators Aditi Ranjan and Meghann Smith. Representatives from the NJDEP serve as the project’s support team.
“We are honored to have received this funding and are excited to advance the sustainable clean energy economy in New Jersey,” Lal says. “Our work will provide real-world insights renewing our commitment as a public university to conduct research that contributes to solving the most pressing problems of society and serving the public purpose. This is an exceptional example of innovative and impactful research that works to directly benefit New Jersey communities we serve.”
The project will help the effort to balance New Jersey’s environmental goals of protecting and responsibly managing the state’s coastal and marine resources while also meeting the Board of Public Utilities’ statutory mandates and priorities.
“It doesn’t have to be a choice between offshore wind that helps address climate change or protecting the recreational fishing economy – it could be a win-win for both,” Lal says. “That’s what we’re trying to explore here.”
Highlighting New Jersey’s recreational fishing economy
One objective of the project is to advance the scientific understanding of how OWFs impact recreational fisheries. As artificial reefs and fisheries exclusion zones grow, OWF areas become greater contributors to locally increased attraction, concentration and food provision for some fish species, with possible consequential effects to fish stocks.
The results of the research will provide critical insights that will help monitor offshore wind impacts on the fisheries economies and the ensuing impact on communities. This information will contribute toward long-range improvement and sustainability of offshore wind development and will be relevant to policy makers, scientists and land managers at local, state, regional and national levels.
Results can be used directly to monitor socioeconomic impacts on recreational fisheries economies, their management and control, coexistence with offshore wind farms, and scaled up to improve ecosystem benefits.
For more information on the Clean Energy and Sustainability Analytics Center, visit montclair.edu/clean-energy-sustainability-analytics.