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Climate / Concern over rush to develop wind farms in rich fishing grounds

Aker Offshore Wind propose to built a huge floating offshore wind farm to the north of the isles. Photo: Aker

PLANS to locate floating offshore wind farms to the west of Shetland to provide electricity for oil and gas installations are being rushed through without proper consultation, Shetland Fishermen’s Association has alleged.

The organisation representing the local fishing industry has highlighted a series of “glaring flaws in the process” which, it says, could undermine the catching sector’s fishing opportunities.

The concerns relate to the Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas (INTOG) leasing round under which developers have been invited to apply for the right to build offshore wind farms to decarbonise the oil and gas industry.

So far two large project proposals for the area have surfaced, the 3 gigawatt/£10 billion Cerulean project earmarked for the west of Shetland and, more recently, the 10GW Aker Horizon project which plans to produce green hydrogen in the water to the north of the islands.

This leasing round is separate from the ScotWind rounds for offshore wind farms for domestic and commercial electricity production.

The SFA’s policy offer Sheila Keith said the data on current and historical fishing activity in the areas under consideration is limited to bottom trawling and excludes seine netting, pelagic hauls, gillnetting and longlining.

It is also confined to activity Scottish vessels, missing out fleets from the rest of the UK, the EU, Norway and Faroe, she said.

“The Shetland fishing industry depends on these rich grounds to the west of the islands for catching, and is hugely concerned that proper assessment of the potential impact of INTOG offshore wind on fishing is not being made,” Keith said.

“While the fishing industry will always support the aim of lowering carbon emissions, the INTOG consultation is being rushed through with scant attention to detail, unlike ScotWind which involved widespread and detailed consultation.

“These are vast areas, with water depths of up to 200m. Floating wind technologies are in their infancy for those sorts of conditions and developers readily concede that technological solutions will not be available until after 2030.

“The whole process should be slowed down so that the industry can gather and fully assess fishing data from these areas.

“That way, existing fishing opportunities and activities can be safeguarded as required in the National Marine Plan.”