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Commercial fish and seafood workers rally against wind farms on the Oregon coast

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Commercial fish and seafood workers rallied along the Coos Bay boardwalk on Tuesday taking a stand against proposed wind farms that are slated for the Southern Oregon coast.

The rally was hosted on the second day of an "Offshore Wind Industry Fly-In" held just down the street at the Mill Casino. The industry conference, hosted by three non-profits with missions dedicated to developing energy along the pacific and Oregon coast, is described as an event that "will bring leadership from the floating offshore wind industry to the coast of Oregon for direct engagement with state and local leadership," with the goal of "charting the course for Oregon’s first 3 gigawatts of offshore energy."

This comes less than two weeks after the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced its call areas in Brookings and Coos Bay for offshore energy projects it has been in talks with Oregon about. Tickets for the five-day fly-in event were sold for between $1000 and $1500.

One of the rally's organizers, Lori Steele, executive director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association said the event was, at least in part, held as a way to show energy companies and leaders at the conference that "there’s already a very, very big industry here for seafood and fishing," and that "we are here to stay."

"We are here to support the industry in the face of offshore wind development and make sure that we get a seat at the table and that we are a part of the process for developing offshore wind in a sustainable manner with," she said.

Many of the 50-100 protesters that gathered along the boardwalk sported tee-shirts reading "S.OS." standing for Save Oregon Seafood and "we grew here, you flew here."

Speakers were mostly legacy commercial fishermen concerned that the large turbines would block access to productive fisheries along the coast and disturb marine life through the electric cables that would carry current from the turbines to the shore. Some also expressed concern that the anchors that would tether the floating turbines to the bottom of the sea would create excessive movement on the seafloor disturbing marine wildlife and impacting the fishery.

"In these water right here where they are talking about we probably catch a million and a half to two million worth of product just in the zones they are talking about and that will totally destroy that fishery," said Stan Schones a multi-generational commercial fisher during an interview after the rally.

The Oregon Department of Energy is hosting a meeting today during which BOEM is expected to take public comment following a presentation on the call areas.

The rally was followed by a march and a free barbeque/social gathering at the Coos Bay History and Maritime Museum.

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