Windfarms and Fisheries

There has been a bit of spitting out of dummies in a twitterspat (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/the-apprentice/9729289/Donald-Trump-blasts-Lord-Alan-Sugar-in-Twitter-wind-farm-spat.html) between Donald Trump and Alan Sugar about windfarms. His Trumpiness is upset because someone built a windfarm within view of his new golf and hotel complex in Aberdeenshire (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2219599/Donald-Trump-Suffering-residents-near-Aberdeenshire-golf-resort-documentary.html). The complex has been mired in controversy as it is impacting on a local beauty spot and Trump has been accusing Alex Salmond (Scotish PM) of going back on his word.

I live on the English Yorkshire coast where there are several offshore windfarms in existence and more planned for the future and have been watching the interaction between fisheries and windfarms with interest (http://www.academia.edu/1484507/Who_owns_the_sea). NGOs are generally supportive of windfarms, seeing them as additional areas where the sea is protected from avaricious fishers (http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefing_notes/marine_renewable_energy.pdf).

They fail to recognise however that in our area fishing is a renewable activity too that supports hundreds of local jobs. The grounds in this area are perfect for lobster and crab and have remained highly productive despite increasing fishing effort. As of yet there is no sign of increasing variability of catches (usually indicative of overfishing). Windfarms are occupying large swathes of the fishing grounds and displacing inshore fishers that depend on those grounds. The grounds are so busy that they are displaced onto grounds that other fishermen are already using. This is creating conflict in the industry and threatening its viability.

It is not at all certain that, in this area, windfarms will be beneficial to marine life. The grounds consist of sediment and cobbles. The cobbles are just the right size for juvenile lobsters to make burrows under. When the fabric of the seabed is ripped up by deployment of wind-turbines and all of the wiring that connects them we do not know whether it will improve or destroy the fishery in that area.

Members of the Holderness Coast Fishing Industry Group (HCFIG; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-17861822) have been trying to raise funds for their own research vessel to investigate likely impacts, gather their own fisheries data and explore options for diversification. Originally they successfully bid for funds from the local Fisheries Liaison Action Group (FLAG; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-15886639) but this has been vetoed by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO; http://www.marinemanagement.org.uk/) on the grounds that they might use the boat for fishing in the future (despite the fact that it would not have a fishing licence).

Whatever the future holds, we can be fairly certain that the conflict between renewable energy (funded by large multinational oil companies and subsidised by the tax payer) and the also renewable local fishing industry are only going to get more heated as fishermen are squeezed out (http://www.academia.edu/892929/Fisheries_the_environment_and_offshore_wind_farms_Location_location_location).

Dr Magnus Johnson is a Lecturer in Environmental Marine Science at the Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences at the University of Hull (http://www.marine-biology.co.uk(

Advertisements