NWWAC/PelAC advice to COM on the impacts of underwater noise and offshore wind energy developments on commercial fisheries
The Pelagic Advisory Council and the North Western Waters Advisory Council have submitted a joint advice document to the European Commission on the impacts of underwater noise and offshore wind energy developments on commercial fisheries.
The advice comes as the European Union steps up the requirement that at least 32% of all energy consumed in the bloc will be derived from renewable energy sources by 2030.
PelAC and the NWWAC have acknowledged the need to provide energy from renewable resources such as offshore wind farms but expressed the need for caution and the requirement to protect nature. In their advice they express concern about underwater noise pollution and the effect it will have on marine life.
In their advice to the Commission they write:
“On both the European and the international level it is yet unclear to what extent (potential cumulative) effects of offshore wind energy developments on fishing areas, for example spawning grounds, nursery areas, or important habitats for fish stocks, are taken into account in a cross-border context, as policy, research and mitigation appear not to be streamlined. Currently, effects on a wide scale are unknown, and research, monitoring and marine spatial planning tend to be carried out at a national level. The studies and especially measures that do exist at the moment are largely focused on protected species (marine mammals and birds) and are limited in scope. Effects are even more unclear at ecosystem level and specifically regarding cumulative effects, including inter-sectoral effects. This is relevant here today as effects on fish and fisheries resources are still a large knowledge gap, including pelagic species, which perform relevant and important ecosystem functions as forage fish. This leads to a lack of ecosystem-based management measures and MSP decisions. The bottom line is there is still a lot we do not know, and research is at an early stage.”
They say that despite several reports into the effects of underwater noise pollution, “our understanding of effects on fishes and especially invertebrates is lagging behind.”
PelAC and the NWWAC say that they support both the concerns voiced and recommendations made in the European Parliament resolution of 7 July 2021 on the impact on the fishing sector of offshore wind farms and other renewable energy systems (2019/2158(INI))
They say, “We are at a time where renewable energy can help us to mitigate effects of climate change, however, this comes hand-in-hand with new ecological risks and pressures on already heavily environmentally impacted busy seas with other pressure factors taking place such as underwater noise.”
The advice makes several recommendations to the Commission which include:
- To address their concerns regarding the existing date gap
- Renewable energy must be planned in a way that takes into account the ecosystem and be safeguarded by a process that includes independent, robust, comprehensive and transparent assessments prior to approval
- To ensure that the large-scale development of offshore wind can occur within the ecological carrying capacity we urge the Commission to match its ambition towards renewable energy to its biodiversity goals
- Inclusion of potential multi-use and differing stakeholders (including for sustainable fisheries and for nature development) at an early stage when designing future offshore wind farms.
- Investments directed at developing and deploying best available technologies and best environmental practises that will mitigate negative impacts on biodiversity, i.e., by reducing noise levels to leave marine life unharmed.