The Irish fishing industry is ‘not being consulted’ about offshore wind developments in Irish waters, reports Lorna Siggins.
Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Aodh Ó Donnell, who was one of six industry representatives to take part in a recent fact-finding mission to a floating offshore wind farm in Scotland, has also said that no planning should proceed until Ireland’s new Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) has been established.
Aodh Ó Donnell said that while every industry needs to co-operate to reduce fossil fuels, ‘co-operation works both ways, and we are not being consulted’.
“There are issues around marine interests and socio-economic or environmental impact assessments. But there are also huge questions about foreign ownership of Irish energy sources, which could affect future energy security,” he said.
“Fishing interests are affected by both the location and operation of wind farms. Available charts indicate that most of the rich Irish Sea fishing area is targeted for turbine development.
“Fishing vessels could be displaced if there is an untrammelled development of offshore wind turbines. Our industry has already taken too many hits, but proper consultation could allow us all to co-exist.
“However, environment minister Eamon Ryan is reported to have signed off on six Irish Sea developments which will move to the planning stage. There is unease that this appears to be rushed.
“Given the offshore competition for space, we have to work hard and collaboratively to defend our members’ interests.
“Many of our vessels are involved in long-established fisheries for species such as Dublin Bay prawns – a valuable resource traditionally fished in the Irish Sea. These vessels now face uncertainty due to the planned development of offshore wind turbines.”
The visit to the Kincardine floating offshore wind farm off North East Scotland was hosted by developer Simply Blue Group. Aodh Ó Donnell noted that this ‘uses the current best-in-class ‘floating’ technology in this fast-moving area’.
“This is an important consideration for Ireland, as most of the planned developments are fixed-bottom arrangements that require shallower sea depths,” he said.
“Unfortunately, these targeted areas are also generally the most productive fishing and spawning grounds.” Floating technologies ‘open up options for the location of turbines in deeper offshore waters’, he said.
“This will create less disruption to fishing activity and allow better co-existence with other marine interests too. Planning guidance in Ireland must steer developers towards less disruptive technologies.”
Ireland’s Department of Housing, which is currently responsible for marine planning, did not respond to requests for a comment on the Irish industry’s concerns. It has said that MARA will be established by the end of the year.
This story was taken from the archives of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.