Ireland’s Offshore Wind Industrial Strategy needs to recognise the rights and livelihoods of other pre-existing Marine Users.  Fishing is a key traditional user of the marine space, contributing € 1.3 Bn GDP to the Blue Economy. The fishing industry supports 15,600 full time equivalent jobs, many of which are located in peripheral coastal communities where employment opportunities are limited.

Unfortunately, the Powering Prosperity Offshore Wind Industrial Strategy document, issued by Minister Simon Coveney TD, ignores this contribution.

The Seafood Sector fully acknowledges that ‘harnessing this abundant source of renewable energy will be transformative for our country’. We support the need for wind energy, but we emphasise that it must be delivered in a planned led way that addresses the spatial squeeze faced by fishers. In particular, there must be immediate consultation on Phase 1 projects located in some of the richest and most sensitive fisheries in the Irish Sea and on the West Coast.

No Effort to Co-Exist with Fishing Industry in Offshore Wind Industrial Strategy

The Seafood Sector – especially fishers- are anxious that this latest Industry Strategy is silent on the co-development and co-existence challenges thrown up by the developer-led competition for the marine space. Unfortunately, the international experience suggests that co-existence is not always achievable and the push towards synergies cannot be delivered.

We need a strategy for offshore wind that takes account of the potential socio-economic, sustainability, and environmental impacts involved. The seafood sector is fearful of the adverse impacts on productive and biologically sensitive fishing habitats which have been a traditional fishery for key species such as Dublin Bay Prawns, Scallops, and Whelk.

Choosing the Right ORE Technology

Fishers are sensitive to the climate change agenda and are at the front line on this matter. They are committed to helping Ireland meets its decarbonisation targets. But the fear is that the currently available offshore turbine technologies are mainly of a fixed nature, which determines how the strategy is implemented in the short term. Fixed turbines are generally limited to shallow sea basins, which are the most productive fishing grounds.

Protect Ireland’s Food Security

We are prepared to work together with the new marine users. We support the principle that the seafood and offshore renewable energy industries can work and co-exist in sharing the marine space. But we cannot deliver co-operation and co-existence without the willing participation of the ORE sector, the wind farm developers and the Government. If they exclude us, how are we to engage?

This has particular implications for our ability to fish in planned wind farm zones, particularly Phase 1 projects. The seafood sector is a source of low carbon food security for Ireland and for Europe. An effective industrial strategy for wind farms must recognise that the need for sustainability goes beyond their sector into our sector.  Successful co-existence with others also needs to balance with the sustainability needs of coastal communities.

The spirit of engagement and co-existence does not feature in an otherwise comprehensive document. As is the case, seafood sector interests appear to have been ignored adding to a sense of uncertainty as the government fast forwards in delivering its energy targets.  The question remains as to how these competing activities will interact and co-exist meaningfully and sustainably with each other in a marine space that is under increasing spatial pressure,