The predicted expansion of the global offshore wind sector is likely to increase conflicts as users of the coastal zone compete for space, and the displacement of fisheries is of particular concern. It is therefore important to explore opportunities that could support the co-existence of offshore wind farms (OWFs) and fishing activity. In addition to ecological evidence on the effects of OWFs on commercially exploited species, the co-location issue requires understanding of the perceptions of fishers and OWF developers on key constraints and opportunities. Interviews were carried out in 2013 with 67 fishers in South Wales and Eastern England and with 11 developers from major energy companies, to discover experiences and opinions on the co-location of OWFs with crab and lobster fisheries. Developers expressed broad support for co-location, perceiving potential benefits to their relationship with fishers and their wider reputation. Fishers had more mixed opinions, with geographical variation, and exhibited a range of risk perception. The lack of reported experience of potting within OWFs was not related to stock concerns but to uncertainty around safety, gear retrieval, insurance and liability. Clear protocols and communication to address these issues are essential if co-location is to be feasible. Scale may also limit the potential benefits to fishers, especially in that large offshore OWFs are likely to be inaccessible to much of the inshore fleet. There remains the potential to enhance the artificial reef effects of OWFs by deploying additional material between the turbines, but options to finance such schemes, and how investment by OWF developers could be offset against compensation paid to displaced fishers, require further investigation.
- Crab and lobster fishing within offshore wind farms remains feasible.
- There are site-specific attitudes and issues which need to be taken into account.
- Scale and distance offshore may limit the potential benefits to inshore fishers.
- Successful co-location requires early engagement and community management.
- Protocols for safety, insurance, liability and gear retrieval are essential.