Fears have been voiced that new offshore wind farms will put even greater pressure on the east coast’s beleaguered fishing industry by blocking access to “massive” areas of the southern North Sea.
The National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisations (NFFO) is calling for more cooperation with the industry at the planning stages of wind farm developments to avoid destruction of prime traditional fishing grounds.
In recent years, the 140-turbine Greater Gabbard and 88-turbine Sheringham Shoal wind farms have been built off the coast of Suffolk and Norfolk and plans for a further 465 turbines as part of the major East Anglia One and Galloper projects have been approved.
Steve and Chris Wightman, whose family has been fishing from Lowestoft for more than 100 years, have expressed fears that the proposed developments will further constrain where and how they can fish.
Chris Wightman, who sells the catch from the family’s shop in Saxmundham while his brother Steve works on their fishing boat Maximus, said the fishing grounds were already restricted as a result of conservation zones and an area reserved for dredging gravel near Great Yarmouth.
He said: “It is getting more and more concerning. The wind farms are taking up more and more space. The new East Anglia One sites are just massive.”
The Wightmans use long lines to catch cod and other fish off the Suffolk coast and, unlike trawlers, they cannot work between the turbines as they are too close together. Exposed cables on the sea bed also cause problems for the fishermen.
Chris Wightman said installing fewer larger and more powerful turbines and burying power cables would leave more space for fishermen to work.
John Lang, of RenewableUK, which represents the wind and marine energy industry, said offshore wind developers took very seriously their responsibility to develop their projects with other users of the sea in mind.
He said members of key fisheries organisation and representatives of the offshore wind industry had sat on a joint liaison group facilitated by The Crown Estate to discuss concerns and find a way to coexist.
Guidelines published this year by RenewableUK recommended that any potential impact on commercial fishing acitivites should be a central consideration when planning wind farms, he added.
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