In response to the unprecedented growth in offshore renewable energy (ORE) and the ensuing impact on marine ecosystems, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has unveiled its roadmap to guide an accelerated and informed approach to managing multiple human uses of marine space.
The roadmap, titled “ICES Roadmap for Offshore Renewable Energy,” aims to integrate ORE considerations into scientific activities, providing a framework for understanding and advising on ecosystem-based management. With the surge in offshore renewable energy projects anticipated in the coming years, the roadmap addresses the need for a scientifically informed decision-making process to ensure the sustainable management of marine resources.
Jörn Schmidt, Chair of the Science Committee at ICES, stressed the importance of employing inter- and transdisciplinary scientific approaches to comprehend the impacts of the evolving ORE sector on the marine environment, social aspects, and economic considerations. The roadmap emphasises the assessment of environmental impacts, understanding broader consequences, and exploring opportunities for collaborative spatial use.
“To understand the developing ORE sector that will impact the marine environment and other maritime sectors and its effects, we need to employ inter- and transdisciplinary scientific approaches,” said Jörn Schmidt, “this includes assessing environmental impacts, understanding broader social and economic consequences, and exploring opportunities for collaborative spatial use. Analysing cumulative effects and evaluating trade-offs will be essential for informing policies and decision-making and Schmidt believes ICES can play a pivotal role, “by providing the structure for sustained scientific cooperation among experts from our Member Countries and beyond, ensuring a cohesive and informed approach to the challenges and opportunities in ORE.”
Colm Lordan, Chair of the Advisory Committee at ICES, highlighted the organisation’s commitment to providing scientific advice based on data and evidence. Acknowledging the advisory challenges posed by the unprecedented development of ORE, Lordan emphasised the applicability of ICES advisory principles and frameworks to issues related to marine spatial planning.
He said, “The unprecedented development of ORE presents some advisory challenges, but our advisory principles and frameworks are directly transferable to advice on ORE. Based on data and evidence, marine spatial planning should be used to avoid, minimise, or mitigate the impacts of ORE developments on marine ecosystems and other sectors. ICES has an important role in advising and supporting evidence-based decision making.”
The roadmap has evolved from several expert groups operating in the ORE domain over the past decade. A crucial milestone in this journey was the Workshop on a Research Roadmap for Offshore and Marine Renewable Energy (WKOMRE) held in April 2023, where experts explored ways ICES could better coordinate scientific efforts in ORE development.
Three expert groups have been tasked with leading the science objectives outlined in the roadmap. The Working Group on Offshore Renewable Energy (WGORE) will focus on providing information on ORE development and identifying issues requiring environmental assessment. The Working Group on Offshore Wind Development and Fisheries (WGOWDF) will address science gaps in fisheries and offshore wind energy interactions. The Working Group on Marine Benthal and Renewable Energy Developments (WGMBRED) will concentrate on benthal and renewable energy-related research.
Alan Haynie, ICES General Secretary, expressed confidence in the organisation’s ability to lead scientific efforts in various ORE research areas, manage new datasets, and provide interdisciplinary advice. The release of the ORE roadmap signifies a significant advancement in international scientific collaboration, offering a comprehensive and long-term approach to managing oceans for the decades to come.
She said, “With our newly developed ORE Roadmap, all of ICES is working together, approaching ORE holistically with a long-term view to providing science to manage our seas for decades to come.”