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Huge windfarm project 37km off Jersey’s south coast already having a ‘massive impact’ on fishing

The head of the Fishermen’s Association in Jersey says the loss of French fishing grounds due to a wind farm project off the coast of St Brieuc is putting increased pressure on local fishing grounds. The project, which has been in planning for almost a decade, has now moved into the groundworks testing and manufacturing stage, displacing parts of the French fishing fleet. Under the Granville Bay Treaty, Jersey and French fishermen have access to parts of each other’s waters but, with the added displacement, Jersey fishermen feel they are carrying a disproportionate burden.

French boats working in the area covered by the windfarm have been displaced and we have lost access to our own fishing grounds as a result. There’s roughly around 50km square that’s been removed, we don’t have access to anymore, so it makes it a little bit unfair in that we haven’t dealt with the loss of ground, and we’re losing access to our own grounds with increased activity from French boats. —Don Thompson, Jersey Fishermen’s Association

The windfarm, which is just 37 kilometres off Jersey’s South coast, will span an area of 75 square kilometres on completion. 62 wind turbines will produce enough power to meet the energy needs of 835,000 French homes. A consultation paper, submitted by Jersey’s Environment Department in 2016, raised concerns around the visual impact of the wind farm, which will be visible, especially at night, from some areas of Jersey’s South Coast. There were also concerns raised over the potential impact on biodiversity. Deputy Gregory Guida, Jersey’s Assistant Minister for the Environment, said he had ‘no doubt’ that the project would have an impact on the environment, but that the French government has been working hard on mitigation measures to ensure the ‘net result is not negative’.

We know that migrating birds are affected, we know that sea mammals are affected, we know that fish banks may change where they spawn, where they move, so it will have an impact, but how you can mitigate that? Amplify your efforts somewhere else to compensate for it, that’s how you solve it. The French government are working on this. —Deputy Gregory Guida, Jersey’s Assistant Minister for the Environment

But environmental groups remain concerned – Jersey’s Marine Conservation Society says species such as dolphins and seals will be disturbed by the works.

These creatures react to noise and, during the construction period, there is a huge amount of noise, therefore that mammal population can be pushed out of the area looking for areas where it’s going to be safeguarded, and if it’s breeding it could disturb those patterns as well, so it’s very, very worrying that those populations might move and therefore be affected by it. —Kevin McIlwee, Jersey’s Marine Conservation Society

Opinion is divided on the potential benefit of windfarms for marine life. According to Kevin McIllvey, marine biologists have noted that artificial structures, like wind turbines, can act as artificial reefs, which in itself is positive, as they offer new places for marine creatures to live in. But, that rests on the species being attracted to the new artificial structures being the right ones.

Another potential benefit, he says, is the reduction in shipping in that particular area, which could be beneficial for seabeds that have potentially been over-fished in the past.

Don Thompson is not convinced by that theory, partly because the fishermen in question have simply moved along, putting more pressure on other areas.

It just isn’t true. Good fisheries management is all about managing fishing effort. If you take all that fishing effort that is going on in that area now and move it elsewhere, that is not good fisheries management, so I just don’t follow that mantra that we are suddenly going to benefit from the loss of those grounds. —Don Thompson, Jersey Fisherman’s Association

Harnessing wind power is part of an ever growing push towards green energy production. >Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference earlier this month, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to become the world leader in clean wind energy, hoping to power every UK home with wind by 2030. Jersey currently gets its electricity from France, in a combination of nuclear and tidal power. Deputy Guida told ITV News that wind power could be an option for Jersey too, but not on its own.

What we need is several sources of energy which could replace each other, so what we could create a windfarm of our own, sell the electricity to France and then buy from them when we need it. —Deputy Gregory Guida, Jersey’s Assistant Minister for the Environment

The French windfarm is expected to be operational by 2023.