Vessels ‘too small’ to be picked up by RWE studies, says local fisheries body.
The body that represents fishermen in North Devon has responded to claims that the Atlantic Array offshore wind farm would have only a ‘minimal’ impact on the local fishing industry.
The North Devon Fishermen’s Association (NDFA) say information shown at public exhibitions last month by developer RWE npower renewables presented a misleading picture of fishing in the Bristol Channel.
They say smaller vessels were not picked up by surveys monitoring the amount of activity in the development site area.
A statement issued by the NDFA, which is based in Appledore and represents almost 100 per cent of the catching sector as well as the largest fish processors in North Devon, said: “The display boards presented at the public exhibitions state that there will be minimal impact to the fishing industry – this could not be further from the truth.
“The catching sector for both whitefish and shellfish is made up of under 16-metre vessels, with only one over 16 metres.
“RWE has stated that vessel monitoring has been conducted from VMS data and surveillance. We wish to point out that electronic reporting of a vessel’s position was until recently only applicable to a vessel over 16 metres in length, so that would indicate that there was one vessel from North Devon fishing in the Bristol Channel.
“Surveillance is largely conducted very infrequently by a spotter plane and on any one day when recordings are being made, the under 16-metre fishing boats could be fishing in areas other than the Atlantic Array site.
“The actual numbers of vessels in the NDFA alone which source their incomes from the Bristol Channel is in fact 26.
“Many have multiple crew members, and onshore related fishing industry jobs would account for numbers into the hundreds.”
The NDFA said, locally, the value of fish and shellfish landings was now estimated to be in excess of £4.5million per annum.
“The most lucrative fishing grounds are within the proposed development producing an approximate 40 per cent of vessel grossing,” added the spokesperson.
RWE say a ‘small’ number of vessels had been identified as being more depended upon the Atlantic Array area and that, during operation, there was a potential long term loss of fishing grounds for potting or trawling vessels.
They said that other fisheries, including netting and lining, may experience minor adverse effects during the construction phase due to pile driving noise.
Robert Thornhill, development manager for the Atlantic Array, said sources of information included discussions with fishing associations, fishermen, processors and public bodies.
He said: “This information is supported by landings data collected by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), for ports around the Bristol Channel; vessel monitoring data covering vessels greater than 15 metres; and patrol sighting data collected by the MMO which covers vessels of all sizes.
“Overall, effects from construction and operation of the wind farm have been assessed as being of minor significance at worst on the fishing sector.
“However, we are working closely with local fishermen to look at ways to mitigate these impacts.
“Our aim is to be a ‘good neighbour’ and have long term co-operative arrangements with local fishermen so that they can keep fishing.”
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