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Marine / Fishing association calls for full research into impact of offshore wind

THE FISHING industry has again raised concern about areas of proposed offshore wind development – claiming they could “wreak havoc with key spawning and nursery grounds” for important stocks.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA), which represents the interests of over 120 vessels, has provided maps showing the overlap between proposed areas of development and these sensitive ecosystems for young fish.

It is calling for the Scottish Government and wind developers to undertake full research on the topic.

For Scotland’s most popular fish, haddock, only two out of 18 areas earmarked for turbine installation under the government’s ScotWind and INTOG (Innovation and Target Oil and Gas) leasing rounds are outwith that species’ spawning or nursery grounds.

A map the SFA has produced for herring.

In the ScotWind auction there is an area east of Shetland up for grabs for offshore wind, while there is interest in developments around the isles to service oil and gas installations.

Created using the Scottish Government’s own data, the SFA said the maps also show that several wind farm areas will impact the spawning and nursery grounds of Scotland’s most valuable pelagic fish stocks such as mackerel, herring and blue whiting.

SFA executive officer Daniel Lawson said: “We appeal to the Scottish Government and to offshore developers to undertake a full programme of research to more fully understand the impacts of anchoring offshore wind farms in the middle of fish spawning grounds.

“Ministers must adopt the precautionary principle and apply it.

“While the industry does not contest the concept of more offshore renewables, this rush towards development means that mistakes will be made – with Scotland’s productive and pristine fishing grounds potentially paying the price.

“Our government says it wants to support coastal communities, build a world class fishing nation and protect the health of Scotland’s fish stocks. Our community relies on a sustainable fishing industry and encouraging offshore wind farms without a full understanding of their impact is a real threat to the sustainability of those stocks.”

The association also said that evidence is mounting of the negative impact on shellfish species from offshore turbines and associated cabling.

“We must avoid a situation where fishing crews providing low carbon, nutritious and healthy food are threatened with the loss of their legitimate businesses and ultimately replaced by higher carbon food producers,” Lawson added.

“Fishermen are now questioning whether ministers or Marine Scotland even took spawning grounds into account in their rush to auction off vast areas of sea to multinational energy firms.”