Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

A meeting held in the European Parliament on Wednesday, January 22 discussing the possibilities for co-existence between fisheries and offshore wind heard EU fishermen call for a freeze on the development of offshore wind capacity.

The meeting ‘Can Fisheries and Offshore Wind Farms Coexist?’ brought together a large spectrum of stakeholders, including scientists, wind industry representatives, NGOs, legislators, and small-scale fishermen from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal that are impacted by or exposed to existing or planned offshore wind farms.

Representing small and medium family-owned businesses, fishermen present shared their experience and concerns on the increasing competition over marine space which, they say, is leading to the loss of valuable fishing grounds and access to healthy stocks.

According to European fishermen, the social, economic and ecological sustainability of fisheries and the long term efforts to this end are now under direct threat, and in some cases already damaged by the uncontrolled development of offshore wind capacity.

Sustainable fishing activities, they highlight, require space as does the development and operation of offshore wind farms.

On account of this, the EU adopted in 2014 a Directive for maritime and coastal spatial planning urging Member States to ensure human activities at sea take place in an efficient, safe and sustainable way and reduce users’ conflicts.

However, now with ambitious EU climate mitigation targets set aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990, some countries are pushing to increase offshore wind power 40-fold by 2030.

Thus, says the European fishing association Europeche, the complex question as to whether fisheries and offshore wind can co-exist is one which is only going to become more pressing.

As expressed by the host of the meeting, vice president of the Parliament’s Fisheries Committee Mr Peter van Dalen, the event hosted in the Parliament last week marks the beginning of a longer discussion.

That said, and while there are many gaps in our knowledge relating to the socio-ecological impacts offshore wind will have in the medium to longer-term, one Dutch fisherman, Mr Job Schot said, We cannot see the benefits of wind farms at sea as we already see indicators of fish decline in areas where wind parks are built.

“Besides, the parks are always built on rich fishing grounds. It is clear that both activities cannot co-exist in the same area, but as fishermen, we do want to continue our livelihoods and keep on fishing for generations to come.”

Mr Olivier Becquet, a French fisherman added: “The current expansion of offshore wind parks should not continue before research has come up with answers to the many knowledge gaps.

“Offshore wind is not climate neutral and poses risks to many species. We need to set our priorities on living and eating, as energy is comfort.”

In light of this, EU fishermen have called on the European Parliament to support their call for a freeze on the development of offshore wind farm capacity, and prevent its extension into new areas, particularly in sustainably managed fishing grounds.