(NSAC) has issued its advice on the development of offshore windfarms and fisheries interaction.

 NSAC has issues advice on the development of offshore windfarms and fisheries interaction.

The North Sea Advisory Council has issued its advice on the development of offshore windfarms and fisheries interaction.

In their report the NSAC say that even though a study commissioned by the EC (Recommendations for Positive Interactions Between Offshore Wind Farms and Fisheries) have reported that Offshore Windfarms have developed in the North Sea without major conflict with commercial fisheries, the broad picture masks a number of important considerations:

  • Although evidence of overt conflict may be limited when reviewing the available literature, the loss of access to fishing grounds is self-evident through prohibitions on activities, where in a number of countries (Netherlands, Germany and Belgium) fishing communities have lost access to fishing grounds without any provisions for compensation.
  • Many projects have so far been developed in coastal waters where static gear fisheries dominate and may more readily co-exist within the confines of wind farm arrays.
  • The largest growth in projects over the last few years has been in the UK that has not applied generalised policies to limit access to fisheries. Here, while there is evidence of static gear fisheries, particularly potting for crab and lobster, operating within the footprint of wind farms, there is not yet conclusive evidence of significant levels of towed gear fishing activities taking place. The earlier development of offshore wind in Denmark occurred in waters with limited fishing activity and was accompanied by formalised arrangements for compensation to the fishing industry for loss of access to fishing grounds
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The advice goes on to say the EC study does, however, recognise the potential for conflicts to increase with the growth of the OWF sector. A recent study for the European Parliament provides further quantification for potential conflict based on an analysis of the overlap between known offshore renewables proposals and fisheries. This study identifies a sharp increase in spatial conflict potential in the North Sea, Baltic Sea and Mediterranean with the spatial overlap between offshore renewables and fisheries at least doubling over the next five years in these sea basins. The North Sea and Baltic Sea are identified as being at the centre for planned OWF installations up to 2025 and the North Sea beyond 2025.

Based on analysis of current fishing patterns using vessel monitoring system (VMS) data, analysis for the North Sea identifies that the largest overlap of proposals with the fishing grounds of beam trawlers targeting sole and plaice, followed by otter trawlers targeting cod and plaice, and beam trawlers targeting common shrimp. A critical overlap is also identified over the longer term for Scottish seine fisheries targeting cod, haddock and flatfish. Other fisheries are also affected by some proposals (principally, dredge and otter trawl targeting Nephrops norvegicus) up until 2025. In the German EEZ, the addition of fishing grounds for beam trawls targeting shrimp are identified for proposals 2025.

The drive for OWF electricity generation is also taking place in parallel to the growth in other marine sectors such as interconnector/telecoms cables, aggregate extraction, marine mining and spoil disposal, as well as measures to protect marine habitats and the seabed. Brexit and/or climate induced shifts in resource distribution or changes in water quality (e.g. resulting from pollution) could also lead to further displacement effects and loss of access to fishing grounds.

Some of the recommendations from the NSAC would involve:

  • Governments should identify areas of fisheries importance and attribute these areas with spatially defined safeguarding policies in marine plans. Overtime, these should be periodically updated in line with marine plan review processes to reflect any changes in the distribution of fishing activities and fisheries resources.
  • The representation of marine space used by fisheries requires effective mapping to include all sizes of fishing vessels. Gaps in coverage should be prioritised and maps on fishing activity regularly updated.
  • Where fisheries are feasible and permitted within offshore wind farms, governments should require proposals to be accompanied by plans that demonstrate how the proposal will enable and facilitate access to fisheries and manage and mitigate impacts.
  • Governments should adopt policies that ensure that where fisheries are deemed to be not compatible, impacts to fishing businesses and communities are assessed and appropriately compensated.
  • Governments should have in place clearly identified indemnity provisions for sacrificed fishing gears in line with UNCLOS.
  • Co-locating offshore wind farms with marine protected areas. Germany presently precludes the construction of OWFs in marine protected areas (MPAs) under national policy, while the UK has permitted their development subject to completing impact and regulatory assessments and receiving planning consent. Other countries have plans for wind farms to be co-located with MPAs (Sweden, Belgium and France).
  • Additional research is needed on marine environment and fisheries resource effects. Fisheries related ecological research is covered in a separate joint advice from the NWWAC, Pelagic AC and NSAC.

The full advice can be found here.

Brian J McMullin Solicitors
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NSAC issues advice on development of offshore windfarms and fisheries interaction

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