Offshore wind is a relative newcomer to the sea, but it is necessary for the decarbonisation of our energy system and for tackling the threat of climate change. Today we have 20GW of offshore wind. The European Commission estimates 400-450GW of offshore wind will be needed to deliver net-zero emissions by 2050.
Having the ability to easily share the sea with other users is central to having cost-effective offshore wind. Synergies can be developed between the energy and fishing sector. Collaborative approaches should be supported by policymakers and industries.
There are good examples of where co-existence and co-operation works well. Fishing within the wind farm, compensation schemes for disruption during construction and alternative employment for fishermen have proven to be successful solutions. Examples of the latter — such as guarding and safety roles, as well as environmental monitoring of bird and mammal populations — can be welcome when fishing opportunities are restricted or fish quotas are exhausted.
Improving the mapping of potential seabed hazards would help to increase co-existence between the two sectors. However, there will still be risks in allowing fishing vessels, even with passive gears, to sail close to or within wind farms. Co-location options will depend on site-specific characteristics — such as ecological importance and park layout — and site- management plans.
In the UK, the two sectors have consulted each other on offshore developments since 2002 as part of the FLOWW (Fishing Liaison with Offshore Wind and Wet Renewables) group. Its objectives are to enable and facilitate discussion on matters arising from the interaction of the fishing and offshore renewable energy industries, to promote and share best practices, and to encourage liaisons between other sectors in the marine environment. Another example is West of Morecambe Fisheries, which manages projects funded by offshore wind farm owners that will benefit the whole fishing community.
Another example of mitigation in the UK is the compensation for disturbance and loss of earnings caused during construction. However, there is no legal basis in the UK for economic compensation of losses because of new habitat displacement or disruption of fishing activities (during surveys, construction or operation of the wind farm).
The document “Best Practice Guidance for Fishing Industry Financial and Economic Impact Assessments” provides methods for calculating financial impacts as a result of areas closed or restricted to fishing. The document was published in 2012 by the UK Fisheries Economic Network and relies on negotiations among sectors, transparency, science-based evidence, alternative employment and honour agreements.
Various initiatives and solutions exist, but best practices are not yet shared enough. This is the right time to act and we need to build on these positive experiences. A much higher degree of co-existence is needed to reach net-zero by 2050 and the European institutions should connect stakeholders and provide a dedicated place for sharing best practices and solutions.
The way forward is communication and collaboration: various sectors using the sea need to integrate other sectors’ interests. Long-term options should be tackled at an early stage in the planning process and discussed systematically among the two sectors and policymakers.
Giles Dickson is chief executive of European wind advocacy body WindEurope. He will be speaking at “Can Fisheries and Offshore Wind Farms Co-Exist?”, a marine spatial planning event taking place at the European Parliament building in Brussels tomorrow (22 January).