In summer 2010, Ichthys Marine produced a report for Collaborative Offshore Wind Research Into the Environment (COWRIE) that identified options and opportunities to mitigate any adverse impacts on fishing activities that resulted from constructing and operating windfarms. One of the possible mitigation options identified was to co-locate windfarms with MCZs, so that MCZs are designated in the same areas as, or overlap with, windfarms. This mitigation option was predicated on the idea that the when MCZs are designated, conservation objectives may require that some or all fishing activities are stopped inside those sites, while fishing activities may also be constrained by or excluded from offshore windfarms. Hence, if fishing was to be affected by both windfarms and MCZs, co-locating windfarms with MCZs might reduce their combined impact on the fishing industry.
Although some potential benefits were identified, in the course of completing this report it became clear that there is considerable concern over co-locating windfarms with MCZs. Essentially, stakeholders are uncertain about the implications of co-location because the MCZ monitoring and management guidance is being developed at the same time as the process for identifying the sites is moving quickly forward. Unknown risk factors including future environmental conditions, refinements of marine conservation objectives and approaches to renewable energy generation, or changes in the viability and participation levels of fishing and other activities, exacerbate the uncertainty.
In summary, more detailed information on conservation objectives for MCZs and on the management and monitoring regimes that will be imposed to meet those objectives is urgently needed in order for stakeholders to take informed decisions on co-location.