Editor’s Log: The Unbeatable Foe - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: The Unbeatable Foe

As the son of a high school English teacher, you’d think I’d be more well-versed on the classics.  Sure, Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway captured my interest with the tale of Santiago going mano-y-mano with a giant marlin, as did London’s The Call of the Wild about a Yukon sled dog named Buck who sheds his civilized working class role to return to more primordial roots in the wild.  Outside of that, I’m more of a song lyrics guy.

Hutch, Sr. was also a football coach, and as any good coach is apt to do, he was always in search of ways to motivate players.  I recall one song that he liked to share, a theatrical classic from Broadway’s Man of La Mancha called The Impossible Dream; it’s a favorite of old school crooners for its deep, booming crescendo encouraging the main character to battle with every last ounce of courage, “to fight the unbeatable foe” and “to reach the unreachable star.”

That Broadway standard is an adaptation of an equally classic novel by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes called Don Quixote.   Again, this is probably where I should’ve paid as much attention to dad’s classroom instruction as I did to his on-field advice (although that too is debatable), as the main character in Don Quixote paints a rather poignant picture of ongoing windmill battles along the Atlantic Coast.

I know some readers see the future proliferation of offshore windfarms as a terrific source of fish-attracting structure, or perhaps a solution to global climate change.  It’s hard to really argue with those perspectives; my concerns are related to actual wind energy area studies (McCann, 2012) that have found “Flounder species were some of the only species to show correlations between the strength of electromagnetic fields from cables and increasing avoidance behaviors around cables, as their catches decreased around charged cables in Denmark.”

An earlier 2006 study by researcher A. Vattenfall for DONG Energy in Denmark (DONG is now called Ørsted) actually found direct correlation between the strength of electromagnetic fields around offshore wind areas and the behavior of flounder species, noting “Flounder primarily crossed the cable when the strength of the electromagnetic fields was estimated to be low, ie during calm periods.”

So yes, science shows fluke migration to and from the offshore grounds may be affected, while the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) also expects impacts to local marine life during windfarm construction as well as permanent changes in benthic (bottom) habitat and other fish habitat. BOEM also cites:

Commercial fisheries and forhire recreational fishing may be impacted. Infrastructure above the water may affect the visual character that defines historic properties as well as contributes to recreation and tourism. Project structures also would pose an allision and height hazard to vessels passing close by, and vessels would in turn pose a hazard to the structures. Additionally, the Project may adversely impact any future mineral extraction, military use, air traffic, land-based radar services, cables and pipelines, and scientific surveys.”

Sure, some of us who wish to slow this offshore industrialization effort down a bit may simply be tilting at windmills and not fire-breathing Spanish dragons; however, the symbolism with these Danish behemoths is rather striking.  As one 21st century literary analysis of Quixote explains, “windmills represent technology, the destruction of the past, and the loss of knightly values.”  Poignant indeed.

As you’ll read in this week’s News Briefs section, offshore wind presents a host of issues, including impacts on fish studies and loss of local authority at the Jersey Shore.   While I may not have spent much time with the classics, in reviewing the more contemporary works by scientists and politicians – and how that all relates to the sometimes impossible dream of beating an often unbeatable foe – something here seems madly out of tune with reality.


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Editor’s Log: Regulatory Possibilities In The Pipeline