Plans for a massive offshore windfarm have been blown off course – by amorous basking sharks.
Campaigners were celebrating last night after it emerged that developers were looking again at the £7billion scheme because part of it would cut across a key mating ground for the huge fish.
Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) could reduce the scale of the 300-turbine project by a third to protect the important breeding area off the west coast.
The Tiree Array site on Skerryvore Reef was identified in surveys as a hotspot for the mysterious basking sharks.
The fish – which can grow to more than 30ft and are the largest in UK waters – migrate there every summer. SPR’s plans will now exclude all – or a significant part of – the Skerryvore reef area.
The company said: “To minimise impacts on birds, including the great northern diver, we are considering a revision to the design of the windfarm to exclude part or all of the Skerryvore Reef, reducing overall size of the windfarm.
“Doing this would also avoid the area where basking sharks are present, as well as avoiding Skerryvore Lighthouse.”
Robert Trythall, spokesman for No Tiree Array (NTA) group, said: “Onethird down, two-thirds to go. We can see the finishing line now and we’re more determined than ever to get this thing sunk.”
Although NTA claimed the sharkshadtaken“a large bite” out of the windfarm scheme, the gentle giants feed on minute plankton and have only tiny teeth.
It is understood that, when SPR carried out its own basking shark survey in August, 914 were spotted in one day.
An SPR spokesman said: “We have been carrying out comprehensive surveys in the area since 2010 to better understand the marine ecology around the site.
“This work is necessary for any proposed development and will shape and inform the design of the windfarm and our future planning application.”
NTA hopes the move could be the first of several climbdowns if the results of further surveys – due to be published next year – back its claim that the windfarm would have an irreversible detrimental impact on the unique coastal and marine environments in Argyll.
The group is also campaigning for the seas around Tiree to be made a marine nature reserve for basking sharks, which would automatically prevent SPR building its 650ft high turbine masts.
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