NEWPORT, RI — Offshore wind development appeared on Tuesday’s agenda at a New England Fishery Management Council meeting, however, it wasn’t expected to pop up during discussion on closures affecting the clamming industry.

Peter Hughes, a liaison for the Atlantic Council, couldn’t digest the fact that an offshore wind leasing area identified in a similar region extends upwards of 1,400 square miles, while the clamming industry, which sought less than 300 square miles off of Nantucket Shoals, couldn’t receive approval.

The notion only gained traction after the council voted against the resolution the clamming industry had wanted, which would have provided exemption to the 280 miles of harvesting area. Instead, the council adopted a modifed version that closed Rose and Crown and Zone D to clamming.

“It’s amazing to me that they’ve turned this complete blind eye on really the most intrusive project that’s ever come on the East Coast, which is wind,” said Scott Lang, former New Bedford mayor and attorney for the clam industry. “... They’re acting like that’s something we’re just going to have to live with, but a fishery that’s been around for a couple hundred years is a threat to the habitat.”

Both Hughes and Lang said they supported offshore wind, but the fishing industry should receive the same cooperation from NOAA.

Lang pointed to a council meeting that presented evidence of cod spawning through anecdotal information.

“If we had presented it, they would have laughed us out of the council,” Lang said.

The science behind the closure of the areas Rose and Crown and Zone D is based off of research done for the scallop industry by Kevin Stokesbury of the UMass Dartmouth School of Marine Science and Technology.

The data included images captured by cameras that showed a complex environment in an area where clammers fish.

However, Stokesbury told The Standard-Times the research is insufficient for the clamming industry since the images of the ocean floor are about a kilometer apart and clammers often dredge in much shorter distance.

He also said clammers historically fish in non-complex environments. Council Member and Director for Marine Fisheries David Pierce and the clam industry echoed this sentiment.

The NOAA Science Center doesn’t have a vessel that can study areas in question because its research vessel, the Bigelow, is too large to fish in the grounds.

Originally, the industry pledged to give some of the revenue from fishing in Rose and Crown and Zone D to NOAA so the agency could research the area.

Clammer like Al Rencurrel, the owner and president of Nantucket Sound Seafood LLC said his company harvests 80 percent of its catch in those areas.

With each closed, there’s doubt whether the industry could still provide funds for research.

“The habitat they’re trying to protect is the grant money,” Rencurrel said “That’s what I think. That’s my personal opinion.”

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said the closures will affect upwards of 500 families who depend on the clamming industry for financial stability. Mitchell said the clam industry produced $10 million in value annually.

Northeast Administrator Mike Pentony said the council’s motion that closed Rose and Crown and Zone D doesn’t permanently close them.

Research can still be done in the areas. With more research they could eventually reopen, which is what Lang sees occurring.

He compared the situation to the notion of scallops decades ago. While NOAA said scallops were in a dire situation, scientists like Stokesbury used innovation to produce more accurate prognostications.

“We’ll develop a survey method. We’ll be able to see what the habitat is. We’ll go back to the council and present the evidence,” Lang said. “And hopefully we’ll get it done.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT