The EAPO has written to the Director General of DG MARE warning that the drive for renewable energy should not cost the fisheries sector

The EAPO has written to the Director General of DG MARE warning that the drive for renewable energy should not cost the fisheries sector

The European Association of Fish Producers Organisations (EAPO) has written to the Director-General of DG MARE, Ms Charlina Vitcheva, commending the EU’s climate targets but warning that their green ambitions should not come at the cost of the fishing industry.

The EU has set targets and ambitions to have greenhouse gas emissions cut by 55% no later than 2030. Though the EAPO welcomed the target they wrote, “The EAPO’s view is that such goal can only be reached by adopting a pragmatic approach, avoiding dogmatic choices, and working with all sectors. If the EU is to meet its objectives, it is clear that renewable energy will be needed. However, this should not come at the expense of the fisheries sector.

“EU fisheries provide for sustainably caught animal proteins with the lowest carbon footprint. Seafood has the ability to help drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to food diets. As such, not only should it be promoted, but the Commission should ensure that fishing operations can be sustained.”

The EAPO doesn’t believe that the proposal to roll-out huge amounts of industrial equipment through windfarms at sea is a sensible approach. Along with offshore windfarms, the fishing industry is also having to compete with the expansion of marine protected areas (MPAs).

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“The Offshore Renewable Strategy estimates that this will require “less than 3% of the European maritime space”. This is to be put in perspective with the further explanations that “The North Sea has a high and widespread natural potential for offshore wind energy” and that reaching the target set of 300GW “will require identifying and using a much larger number of sites”. Concretely, this will translate in the concentration of windfarms in coastal areas, on age-old traditional fishing grounds.

“The reduction of marine space available for fisheries is only continuing what has been observed for years now, with the development of offshore oil & gas, Natura 2000 sites, aggregate extraction, Marine Protected Areas, etc. The cumulative loss of fishing grounds threatens the economic viability of the sector.”

Pushing fishing vessels off traditional fishing grounds and further out to sea has added dangers and expenses which the EAPO points out:

“Operational costs increase since more fuel and time are needed to reach alternative fishing grounds and fishing competition grows in remaining places.

“Therefore, questions can be raised regarding the implications of such choices on food security or on the reliance of food imports from third countries with less stringent sustainability requirements.”

The EAPO also questioned the EU’s promise of employment opportunities for all.

“One other worrying argument presented in the Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy is the presentation of alleged “major benefits in terms of jobs and growth”. EAPO recalls the joint EAPO/Europêche feedback to the Commission’s public consultation, highlighting that a first requirement for guaranteeing growth and employment, is to not destroy fishing jobs that allow coastal rural families and communities to thrive across Europe.

“Moreover, the jobs offered by the offshore renewable energy (ie: “researchers, engineers, scientists and engineering technicians”) are significantly different from the one of fishermen and therefore cannot provide for alternative employment.

“In addition to not being coherent with other policies such as the Farm to Fork Strategy, substituting fishing boats for offshore wind farms is not a sustainable solution. Environmental impact and knowledge gaps is in line with the approach taken by the Commission when it states that “offshore renewable energy will only be sustainable if it does not have adverse impacts on the environment as well as on the economic, social and territorial cohesion”. The fishing sector has been calling repeatedly for increased scrutiny on the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts of offshore wind developments. This needs to come through thorough ex-ante and ex-post integrated cumulative impact assessments.

“The installation, functioning and decommissioning of offshore windfarms have an impact on the marine environment. Many are still unknown but others such as the impact on fish and marine mammals of underwater sound, the “physical loss of benthic habitat”, or the “far-reaching consequences for the ecological functioning of the marine environment” are clearly demonstrated. The amplitude of the developments foreseen had cumulative effects that risk impairing the physical functioning of sea basins (local wind patterns, wave generation, tidal amplitudes, stratification of the water column, dynamics of suspended particles and bedload transport of sediment). Questions remain on several aspects of offshore wind development such as decommissioning of the installations.”

Further research is necessary before proceeding to a large roll-out of industrial installations at sea claims the EAPO.

“When it comes to the environmental consequences of offshore wind farms, a precautionary approach is needed. Fisheries: true European success story The Strategy presents Offshore Renewable Energy as a “true European success story”. For EAPO, the EU features another success story: the one of sustainable fisheries. In only ten years, thanks to incredible efforts from the fishermen, the fish biomass has increased by 50%.

“Nowadays, 99% of landings in the Northeast Atlantic come from sustainably managed fisheries. In the meantime, greenhouse gas emissions of the sector have been almost halved in the last thirty years. Fisheries achieved this important progress while providing jobs both at sea and onshore and ensuring livelihoods for coastal communities. This success story needs to be recognised and promoted. EAPO looks forward to reading the further analysis of the interactions between offshore renewable energy and other activities at sea that is being prepared by the Commission. The fishing sector will also be present at the High Level European Offshore Renewable Conference in 2021.”

Dutch fishermen in the North Sea claim that offshore wind farms have had a negative effect on traditional fish species, and other studies have show that benthic species are being impacted, as well as other wildlife such as seabirds that have become victims of turbines (wind energy firms have denied that many seabirds are victims; Wind Power Monthly).

The same question on offshore renewable energies has been raised by Fiskebåt, the Norwegian fisheries organisation. They were responding to an article in a Norwegian newspaper claimed, “Offshore wind can be good for life in the sea”.

In their article this week responding to the report Fiskebåt’s resource researcher, Gjert Dingsør and department head Nina Rasmussen responded:

“Science does not know whether offshore wind is good for marine life

Fishing boat refers to the article «Offshore wind can be good for life in the sea», BT 18.01.2021. This is a statement we find reason to question, supported by a recent expert report from the Institute of Marine Research ” Potential effects of offshore wind facilities on the marine environment ” and a special issue of the journal Oceanography ” Understanding the Effects of Offshore Wind Development on Fisheries “. These publications summarize the knowledge that exists on offshore wind and it is pointed out that there are large knowledge gaps and that it cannot be concluded, neither in a positive nor a negative direction, with regard to the long-term effects on fish.”

On the issue of artificial reefs the Fiskebåt wrote:

“There are indications that bottom-fixed wind farms can attract more species and that the structures can have an artificial reef effect that can lead to increased food and shelter for fish. What we do know is that wind power plants will change the benthic fauna in the area where the plant is established, but there is far too little knowledge about how this will affect the ecosystem around the plant. It is right that a wind farm will protect the fish from being caught because for safety reasons it will be unjustifiable to fish between the wind turbines. However, the effects of wind turbines on fish populations are still unknown. There is a need to find out how changes on a local scale can affect productivity on a regional scale.”

On the affects that wind turbines have on marine life they write:

“Another area where there is too little knowledge is noise and vibrations from wind turbines in the operational phase and the effect of this on fish. It is known that different species react differently to noise. How noise from wind turbines affects spawning behaviour in fish is unknown. Cod is a species that communicates using sound during spawning and is therefore vulnerable to noise. Southern North Sea II overlaps with a well-known spawning area for cod. The cod stock in the North Sea is for various reasons at a critically low level and the fishing industry itself has taken the initiative to protect this and other spawning areas from fishing during the spawning season precisely to build up the stock. It will also be very negative if Havsul 1 on the Møre coast has negative consequences for spawning behaviour in Norwegian spring-spawning herring. Fishing boat therefore believes that there is a need for more research on noise and vibration before development is initiated. Until this knowledge gap is closed, the precautionary principle must be practiced when establishing offshore wind turbines.”

Renewable Energy should not come at the cost of the Fisheries Sector

by editor time to read: 11 min