Offshore wind farms in the Greater Wash, Thames estuary and North West could make a significant contribution to the UK’s commitment to renewable energy. However, the extent of proposed ‘Round 2’ wind farms will affect a range of marine users and environmental resources. Defra commissioned this investigation to seek the views of the UK fishing industry into the potential implications of proposed Round 2 offshore wind farm developments on their work patterns and income. The project was intended only to gather the views of the fishing industry in the three Strategic Areas, not those of the wind farm developers or the government departments responsible for the licensing and consenting process.
Invitations to participate in the study were made to the fishing community between May 1st – September 30th 2005 through ‘Fishing News’ articles, and individual mailings to fishermen in the affected areas, their Associations, and Organisations. Fishermen were offered the opportunity to describe and explain their perceptions of the likely impacts of the construction and operation of wind farms on them in face-to face meetings, phone conversations and questionnaires. A workshop was held to raise awareness of the project with the fishing industry, wind farm developers and their Fishery Liaison Officers, and government officials. Despite these efforts the response rate by fishermen was very poor, so it cannot be concluded that the results reported in this study are representative of the entire industry. Although the views described in this report are from a small group, it is still important that they are made widely available to stimulate further discussion and to encourage other members of the fishing industry to continue this open dialogue with government.
This report summarises the extent of fishing activities in the three Strategic Areas, and describes the perceptions of fishermen into the socio-economic implications of wind farm developments for their industry. The report also suggests mitigation measures for fleets that may be disadvantaged by such developments and provides guidance on how the methods used here might be used to assess the impacts of other offshore developments on fisheries.
Fisheries within the 3 Strategic Areas are numerous and varied; 27 distinct fleets or ‘métiers’ can be defined. More than three quarters (700+ vessels) of the fishing fleet within the 3 Strategic Areas consists of small, relatively low-powered vessels that fish on inshore grounds near to their local port. Such vessels tend to have limited opportunity to move or extend their fishing grounds, particularly when other vessels already fish neighbouring grounds. A detailed description of fishing ‘métiers’ and results of an investigation into what fishing activities may be carried out in and around wind farms is provided in a report available from the FLOWW group (‘A study to identify those fishing activities that can be safely carried out in and around wind farms’).
Causal mapping was used as a tool in the dialogue between fishermen and researchers. The method helped researchers to structure the information in a way that allowed a comprehensive and transparent understanding of the knowledge, views and perceptions expressed by fishermen, and to communicate that information to Defra in a simple and effective way.
The causal maps successfully captured discussions with fishermen, identifying 7 linked areas of concern related to (i) Fishing activities, (ii) Socio-economics, (iii) Environment, (iv) Hazards, (v) Mitigation, (vi) Communication & trust, (vii) Decision making & prioritisation.
Potential loss of access to traditional fishing grounds was widely considered to be a major concern and led to uncertainty for the future. Fishermen frequently reported that there were no alternative grounds and that displacement amongst the smaller <00 m vessels would lead to increased competition, conflict and escalating fuel costs. It was believed that larger vessels excluded from existing grounds would be similarly impacted, and, if displaced to neighbouring inshore grounds could displace several smaller vessels for each larger vessel. Their additional concerns of short and long-term disruption to fish behaviour patterns and abundance caused during construction and operation, suggested that the overall impacts of wind farm development were strongly negative. This view was widely held by fishermen, with few regarding wind farm development as an opportunity, other than the potential to fish within wind farms using fixed gear, and the possible conservation benefits to stocks if access was reduced.
Reduced catches and increased costs not only impact individual profitability, but could also lead to compromised safety and have implications for communities where fisheries are strongly embedded in the local economy. Many fishermen were concerned about their futures and the potential loss of heritage.
A large proportion of vessel businesses operating in the 3 Strategic Areas are currently earning low profits. While some shellfish potting vessels have good levels of profitability, most vessels using nets (trawled, drift or static) are vulnerable to increases in costs or reductions in earnings.
It was widely expected by those fishermen consulted that wind farm areas will have to be avoided by vessels using nets and that this will disrupt existing fishing patterns substantially. Longer steaming time will increase fuel costs and reduce fishing time and therefore fishing earnings. The resulting operations may not be profitable. The apparent widespread low profitability suggests that there is a risk of vessel business failure.
Options to change business practices are limited by licences, quota, vessel size and availability of capital. Some larger vessels may relocate, reducing the value of landings in their previous homeport. Business failure or relocation would lead to loss of landings from the 3 Strategic Areas. As a consequence, it was considered that upstream and downstream businesses would be affected and may also experience reduced profit or business failure if unable to diversify.
Recreational sea anglers were the only group to describe as beneficial the expected overall economic change generated. Market demand for commercial charter angling was not considered great enough to support many boats even if the fishing was good.
For a range of reasons, this study was unable to establish comprehensive and detailed data on current fishing activities, costs and earnings of vessels in all the areas that may be affected by all planned Round 2 wind farms. This information will be needed to accurately assess the impacts on vessel profits caused by having to avoid wind farm areas, to make an objective assessment of any claim of loss of profit due to the presence of wind farms.
Turbines were considered a major hazard to navigation and fishing activities, with some fishermen expressing the opinion that they would avoid wind farms even though they are allowed to fish within them. Most were very concerned about their ability to insure their vessels when operating near or within wind farms, suggesting that any accident would result in large increases in insurance or companies declining to provide cover.
In relation to planning issues and decision making, it was evident from discussions and analysis of causal maps that there was a poor understanding of the planning process by fishermen, although through the consenting process the government consults the fishing industry widely. Lack of information upon which to base decisions was specifically highlighted by fishermen as an important concern and underlies many of the issues relating to perceived poor or biased planning and decision-making. The combination of these factors exacerbated fishermen’s feelings of alienation.
The views reported by fishermen indicated that mistrust of the planning processes and authorities was partly a result of previous negative experiences of offshore planning. Fishermen perceived that Round 2 wind farms would impose yet more restrictions on their industry, already affected by the development of other industries in the coastal zone such as oil and aggregate extraction, dredging, port developments and Round 1 wind farms.
Fishermen found it difficult to provide ideas for mitigation measures that adequately addressed their concerns. The numerous uncertainties surrounding how wind farms impact ecology, navigation and sediment dynamics, and potential consequences for their normal fishing methods and grounds, made it difficult for them to see how they might be able to adapt. The incentive to adapt by changing fishing methods was low, with lack of licences, the time taken to learn new methods and high investment costs stated as the main barriers.
Generic or area-based options for mitigating the impact of wind farms on fisheries were not identified, principally because there was no location or season in which the impacts of wind farm construction or operation would not disrupt fisheries. In addition, respondents felt that there was a general lack of information available to fishermen to help them understand the issues and actively contribute to such discussions. It was concluded that the unique ecological and socio-economic environment of each proposed development site will require site-specific mitigation options to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Concern over the sustainability of their livelihoods and knock-on to effects to communities meant that the issue of ‘industry support’ or compensation featured strongly in the minds of many fishermen. It was not an objective of this report to evaluate options for compensation. The Fisheries Liaison with Offshore Wind and Wet renewables group (FLOWW) has agreed a number of guiding principles surrounding compensation matters.
Soliciting the participation of fishermen in this study proved difficult, requiring us to adapt the approach to circumstances. Therefore the responses obtained, and the outcome of many face-to-face interviews undertaken, have provided an honest but limited description of fishermen’s views and concerns of the development of round 2 wind farms, and the perceived threats to their livelihoods.
During recent years, European fisheries management has encouraged cooperation rather than administration; providing opportunities for managers, scientists and fishermen to work more closely on the common problems they face. Many of the uncertainties highlighted in this report are being addressed by this approach, and by the joint identification of studies that could be undertaken at existing Round 1 sites and/or Round 2 sites due for development. Lessons learned from the interaction with executive summary fishermen in this work demonstrate that it is vital to include fishermen as collaborating partners to help specify priorities for investigation and in the design and undertaking of such field studies. It is important that the government sponsored Fisheries Liaison with Offshore Wind group continues to focus on this role.