A fishing icon joins the Sea Services team blending 40 years of fishing and safety training, with offshore wind opportunities

It has been suggested that synergy between the fishing industry and offshore wind is presumptive at best and inconceivable at worst.

But then there are the words of Rodney Avila, a legendary fisherman of more than 60 years, who views Sea Services North America’s cooperative structure as the perfect vehicle to marry the two.

“Sea Services North America is the conduit between the fish industry and wind companies,” Avila said after recently taking over as SSNA’s Crew and Vessel Safety Manager. “Most people say that fishermen will get put out of business because of wind companies. But SSNA is creating opportunities to enhance safety training, allow fishermen to get their credentials updated, and ultimately make them better mariners. Updated qualifications make the water safer for everybody.”

Avila, based in New Bedford, Mass., has expertise in every sector of the fishing industry. He’s served as a deckhand, engineer, mate, and captain. He’s worked for the Fisherman’s Family Assistance Center, Fisheries Management Committee and trained fishermen in proper safety measures and practices.

Before coming to SSNA, Avila served as a liaison between families in the fishing industry for Ørsted, the global leader in offshore wind energy, and New Bedford’s offshore wind industry.

“Rodney is a fishing industry icon. He is a fishing pioneer working from New Bedford for over 60 years,” said SSNA co-founder Gary Yerman. “Rodney has been a champion of safety at sea for years. He has survived vessel sinkings, fires, severe weather and many dangerous situations during his fishing career. It’s this experience and commitment to safety at sea that makes Rodney so important to the Sea Services team.”

Experts in the wind industry also hail Avila’s expertise and acknowledge the significance of his role with SSNA.
“Rodney has been described as a ‘national treasure’ and indeed he certainly is,” said Ed LeBlanc, Ørsted’s Head of Marine Affairs.” As our primary envoy to the commercial fishing community, Rodney was key to reducing fear and increasing understanding about offshore wind among fishers throughout the East Coast, and even extending to the Pacific Northwest./ His in-depth knowledge of commercial fishing and his calm, sincere, authentic style made him truly effective and unique./ Rodney’s impact and legacy will not be easily replicated.”
Avila chuckles at the thought of his younger self, particularly referring to safety measures on the water. It’s among the reasons he relates well to fishermen today who are skeptical of the industry’s evolution with offshore wind.

“When I started in my 20s, I already knew it all,” Avila said. “Nobody could tell me anything. When it came to safety training, I’d have said we don’t need it. I once thought I was the safest guy on the ocean. I realized after going through all the training, I was the luckiest guy on the ocean. That’s why I believe in what we’re trying to deliver at SSNA.”