The Martha’s Vineyard and Dukes County Fishermen’s Association (MVDCFA) had objected to the 420MW wind farm on the grounds that it could make navigation difficult, increase their costs and effectively stop them from fishing in the 25km area where the turbines are to be sited.
The group launched a lawsuit against the government in 2010, after it gave federal approval for the project.
However this week the fishermen agreed to support the project, entering into a financial settlement and agreeing to work together on a number of fishing initiatives in the Horseshoe Shoal site, intended for the wind farm. The value of the settlement has not been disclosed.
Cape Wind president Jim Gordon said: “Cape Wind and the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen share the value of sustainability. Offshore clean energy can go hand in hand with a sustainable ocean ecosystem and sustainable fisheries.”
The company pointed to studies on European wind farms, that suggested that offshore wind can be beneficial to marine life.
“We see twenty years of studies in Europe that consistently show a beneficial artificial reef effect from the submerged foundations of offshore wind turbines and we expect the fishery on Horseshoe Shoal to improve,” he said.
The developers and fishermen will now co-operate to keep the Shoal open to fishing activities, Cape Wind said, in addition to establish a permit bank that will enable the purchase of commercial fishing permits for “Vineyard wild-caught” seafood.
MVDCFA President Warren Doty said: “We are glad to have found common ground. Now we can work together to make Cape Wind’s sustainable energy and a sustainable local fishery both happen.”
He added: “The establishment of the Martha’s Vineyard Permit Bank will help protect the livelihood of local fishermen and help ensure this vibrant fishery remains for future generations.”
However, Cape Wind still faces opposition from other communities in the area, with lawsuits pending from four other opposition groups.
The Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership, which represents 19 commercial fishing organisations in the state but not the Vineyard fishermen's association, said it continues to oppose Cape Wind.