Atlantic salmon stocks could be under threat if a Merseyside offshore wind farm is built, an angling association warned.
The fish – which are currently considered to be a species that are “at risk” and enter the Dee Estuary from Liverpool Bay to spawn on the River Dee – could have their navigation skills “affected” if plans to extend the farm in Burbo Bank are sanctioned.
Danish firm DONG Energy has submitted plans to the government’s Planning Inspectorate to install a further 69 turbines, 8.5 km from Crosby Beach.
The site currently has 30 turbines and although it lies within English waters, the electricity generated would be taken by cable to Wales, where it is connected to the national distribution network to power tens of thousands of Welsh homes.
But members of the Bangor-On-Dee Anglers’ Association believe that the project could have “knock-on effects” for salmon migration.
Secretary George Wallace said: “It might affect the salmons’ navigation systems. We’re not too sure how they navigate, but they do it somehow – like a pigeon uses a magnetic field to navigate – and the farm could hinder this.
“The amount of salmon that enter the estuary is low as it is. We had about 3,500 last year, but seals caught about ten times that amount. Our anglers only caught about 500 and we’re being told to release them.
“We don’t want a wind farm to have a further impact on salmon. Noise (from creating the farm and installing cable) could also affect the salmon.”
Angler Stuart Watson also outlined that the salmon route from Iceland to the Dee will be “blocked by the farm.
A Marine Management Organisation (MMO) report questioned the conclusion that the project will have “no adverse effect”, stating: “There is not enough evidence provided within the Environment Statement (ES) to support this conclusion and it is not known if there will be an adverse effect due to delayed migration.”
The MMO made clear that the current status of Atlantic salmon in the River Dee system are categorised as “at risk” and predicted to be in this category until at least 2016.
But despite an impact assessment being conducted – with mitigation aspects being agreed – the MMO retains “concerns” regarding the potential impacts to salmon.
Ferdinando Giammichele, Dong Energy’s project development manager, said the firm is minimising any impact.
He said: “We have been working very closely and proactively with the MMO, Environment Agency and Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science both before and after the submission of the ES. We are also working together on potential solutions to minimise the impacts on the Atlantic salmon, which the examining authority will discuss during the examination.”
An Environment Agency spokesman said it has statutory duties to maintain, improve and develop salmon fisheries. He added: “We are aware of Dong Energy’s proposals for its Burbo Bank windfarm and are currently in discussions with the company. We are also working alongside our DEFRA partners, including the MMO, to assess the proposals.”
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