Fishermen, seafood processors, marine suppliers, scientists, and members of multi-generational fishing families gathered in Coos Bay on Tuesday to send a unified message: protect U.S. fishermen.
Roughly 200 attendees representing West Coast states rallied in response to the recent announcement of call areas for offshore wind energy development off Oregon’s southern coast. Floating wind farms are also in various stages of discussion off of California and Washington, creating an existential threat for commercial fishermen who have fished those same waters for generations.
The event was also a celebration of Oregon’s seafood industry. On the Coos Bay boardwalk, one of the event organizers, Heather Mann from Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, reminded the crowd, “This is about all of us, all of you, who contribute to a way of life in Oregon that cannot be matched, and that is the commercial fishing industry, commercial fishing families. and all we contribute to local economies up and down the coast.”
Rallying the crowd were a variety of speakers, including Lori Steele, of West Coast Seafood Processors; Mike Okoniewski, of Pacific Seafood; Kurt Englund, from Englund Marine Supply; Steve Godin from Oregon Coast Anglers; retired marine biologist Mike Graybill; Brian Blake, from Ocean Golds Seafood; Tim Novotny, from the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission; Scott McMullen, from Oregon Fishermen’s Cable Committee; and John Burns, a port commissioner from the Port of Coos Bay.
Several representatives of fishing boats also shared brief messages, including Justin Johnson (F/V Pegasus), Kelley Retherford (F/V Excalibur), Mike Retherford (F/V Coast Pride), Nick Edwards (F/V Carter John), Ty Cuttings (F/V Cape Foul Weather), and Rex Leach (F/V Miss Julie).
Johnson, a second-generation fisherman, urged the crowd to keep up the passion and momentum evidenced at the rally.
“They say history is written by those who show up and you all sure showed up today. Fishing families from eight months to 80 years old gathered here to defend their right to work and provide seafood for the world,” he said. “We must return to our hometowns with the same passion and recruit every man, woman and child to the fight for our way of life.”
Coos Bay fisherman of 43 years, Rex Leach, said his sons would take over the business someday, but only if there is a change to the offshore wind call areas.
“These call areas offshore here take up 70 percent of my fishing grounds. If these grounds go away forever, we’re pretty much toast,” he said. “It makes sense to push this stuff offshore, outside of our fishing grounds,” Leach added.
With a constant soundtrack of honking horns supporting those carrying signs of “SOS – Save Oregon Seafood” and “Fishermen = Food Security” – the rally marched to the Coos Bay Museum, where a seafood barbecue awaited them. On the way, they handed out flyers urging people to contact their elected officials at the federal and state levels to protest how the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is handling the issue.
“I think this was just the beginning of what people will see from an extremely motivated seafood industry,” Mann said afterward. “Different fisheries and parts of the industry have faced tough issues before, but something as wide-reaching and potentially devastating as 200 wind turbines twice the size of the Statue of Liberty in key fishing grounds is enough to unite us across all gear types, fisheries, and parts of the industry.”
For more information about the response to offshore wind development, visit facebook.com/protectUSfishermen.
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