"Windmills in the sea? Then fishermen decide with you!" says Dutch MEP and Vice-Chair of the PECH Committee, Peter van Dalen

“Windmills in the sea? Then fishermen decide with you!” says Dutch MEP and Vice-Chair of the PECH Committee, Peter van Dalen

Dutch MEP and Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries, Peter van Dalen, has called on greater cooperation between governments and fishers when it comes to planning offshore wind farms.

As part of the EU’s Green Deal, at-sea solutions for energy production are being implemented with fishers being driven off important fishing grounds. Noise pollution and damaging the natural flow of the sea’s currents are major concerns for some marine scientists, but EU Member States seem happy to ignore science in order to fulfil their targets on offshore wind farms and low carbon electricity.

Today, Mr van Dalen presented a report to the European Parliament, and at a press conference in Strasbourg this morning, he laid out the report.

Parliament is expected to adopt the report highlighting the potentially negative impact that the construction of new wind turbines in European seas could have on marine life and fisheries. MEPs are expected to ask for fishermen and those most affected to be included in the decision-making process before new offshore wind turbines are built.

EU seas already house more than 5,000 wind turbines. To reach the EU’s 2050 targets on offshore wind energy capacity, new turbines would have to occupy fifteen times the marine space currently used.

While many EU citizens are being led to believe that fishers are hostile to the building of offshore energy production, it is not the case. Fishers are mainly concerned with where these turbines are constructed, and so far, prime traditional fishing areas have been targeted by developers which are forcing fishers into financial losses. When an offshore wind farm is built, it effectively privatises the area it encroaches and bans fishing vessels from operating within that radius.

Mr van Dalen pointed out that people on land have objected to the building of wind turbines near them or in places of natural importance and have forced these developments offshore onto the sea, but fishers have a right to be treated equally.

“The energy transition is necessary, so we must, among other things, switch to clean energy via wind turbines. However, more and more people on the European mainland do not want windmills in their living environment. “Not in my back yard”, so many shout.

“Then people quickly look at the sea: put those windmills there. The Parliament’s Fisheries Committee almost unanimously believes that the construction of wind farms in the sea should be discussed together with the fishermen. After all, they are the oldest users of the sea and that is why the core of my report is:

Windmills in the sea? Then fishermen decide with you!

“Not some vague participation, but real, full participation from the fishermen about where the wind turbines will be placed. Effective and permanent consultation with fishermen and aquaculture producers minimizes or even prevents conflicts in the construction of wind turbines in the sea. In this way, the fishermen are on a level playing field against the powerful multinationals that build windmills in the sea.

“I think this choice of the Fisheries Commission is extremely wise! Fishermen know where the best fishing grounds are, and they want to preserve them in a sustainable way. That is why I also propose in my report to examine whether windmills can be placed in marine protected areas, because then fishermen are not taken too much fishing ground.

“My report also points to the risks associated with the construction of offshore wind farms. For example, when driving the piles, a very loud noise of more than 130 decibels is released, which is comparable to the sound volume of an aircraft taking off very close. What does this do to the fish? Are they temporarily or permanently deaf? How does the electromagnetic radiation from the cables affect electrically sensitive fish such as rays and sharks? To what extent is maritime biodiversity affected during the construction, operation and demolition of wind turbines? More research is needed, as such questions have not yet been sufficiently answered.

“The report emphasizes that offshore wind farms should only be built if it is excluded that negative environmental and ecological, as well as economic, socio-economic and socio-cultural effects for fishermen and aquaculture producers will occur. Application, therefore, of the precautionary principle of Article 191 paragraph 2 TFEU.

“The European Commission assesses the maritime spatial plans of the Member States. In doing so, she must pay attention to the interests of the fishery and the effects on the fish! That is my message to the Commissioner.”

by Oliver McBride

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“Windmills in the sea? Then fishermen decide with you!” says Dutch MEP

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