The government has been accused of sacrificing the fishing industry for a second time since Brexit in order to burnish its green credentials with a huge programme for offshore wind turbines.
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, last year said the UK had an opportunity to become “the Saudi Arabia of wind”, as part of a goal to become carbon neutral by 2030.
But in an echo of Brexit political divides, fishing officials said on Wednesday the government had failed to carry out impact assessments or recognise the huge “displacement” that wind turbines at sea were causing the fishing industry.
“What we seem to have is a government that is in thrall to the conservation lobby, and you can see why – there are green votes that are there,” said Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) at a briefing to reporters on Wednesday. He added that the government had “no real understanding of what the effects are of those policies in terms of displacement”.
The NFFO said the government had already “sacrificed” the fishing sector for “big power politics” in Brexit, just like the “Ted Heath betrayal” in 1973. Deas claimed that “the failure to address the issue of displacement … is going to be the cause of much friction”.
“The government has been startled by the strength of the industry’s concerns and are starting to address those kind of issues, but we’ve got a long way to go,” he added.
Windfarms are now visible off shore around the country, with thousands of turbines providing renewable energy from farms including those in the Thames estuary area, Liverpool Bay, off the Yorkshire coast and the North Sea.
The government’s April white paper on the future of energy talks of a five-fold increase in exports of offshore wind goods and services bringing in £2.6bn a year and creating thousands of jobs.
But the NFFO said the “colossal scale of expansion is hard to comprehend” as there is, as yet, “no clearly defined analysis of what it means”.
Tony Delahunty, president of the NFFO, said the environment campaigners “pooh pooh the displacement argument” about the barrier to fishing near the huge structures but that the issue did not solely concern the “block of seabed that’s covered by the actual turbines” but also related to the “thousands and thousands of cables connecting to the shore base”, many of which are “not covered”.
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