Fishing industry at risk of being ‘put to the sword’ by offshore renewables and marine protected areas
The fishing fleet is facing a “truly frightening” future with the prospect of more than half of Scottish waters being off-limits by 2050, a new study has warned.
The industry is at risk of being “put to the sword” because of offshore renewable energy developments and the expansion of enhanced marine protected areas, according to the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) and National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO).
Their report, Spatial Squeeze in Fisheries, produced by the ABPmer consultancy, is described as the first attempt to assess the cumulative impact on commercial fishing of “hugely increased competition for space in the marine environment”.
The industry bodies claim the fishing fleet is being marginalised.
They say the worst-case scenario could mean the loss of an area to fishing of over 260,000 km2 (56 per cent of Scottish waters) by mid-century. This would result from the Scottish Government’s target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, the expansion of offshore renewables and the designation of at least 10 per cent of Scotland’s seas as highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) where fishing will be banned.
Even if the worst-case assumptions are not realised, they add, an area of 213,000km2 (46 per cent) is likely to be lost by then, “threatening the very existence of fishing businesses and causing severe harm to coastal communities”.
Fishing is currently excluded from around a third of Scottish waters. “Looking back to 2000, fishing was restricted in less than one per cent of Scottish waters, so the pace and scale of change is evident,” say the SFF and NFFO.
In all the scenarios examined in the report, Scotland is projected to lose far more of its waters to fishing when compared to the rest of the UK.
SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said: “The outlook ahead is truly frightening.
“The report shows that expansion of both offshore renewable energy generation and marine conservation are being prioritised over fishing, despite fishing’s value in producing low-carbon, healthy and sustainable food, contributing to our food security and supporting thousands of jobs in our coastal communities.
“The industry’s voice and interests are being downplayed by government when it comes to overall strategy for marine planning, and in relation to individual planning decisions.
“No-one disputes the need for renewables to help in the battle against climate change. However, the scale of development proposed offshore risks putting an already climate-smart industry to the sword.
“It is deeply unjust that fishing businesses and fishing communities are being denied an equal say when we are the sector likely to feel the most significant impact.
“We need a proper seat at the table and for consultation to be meaningful, not just lip service.”
The report does indicate, however, that it is not too late for action to minimise the impact on fishing – through better planning and design, and by putting mitigation measures in place.
Ms Macdonald added: “Both the UK and Scottish governments need to recognise the importance of sustainable fisheries for both food production and livelihoods, and more effectively integrate our industry into the marine spatial planning and decision-making systems.
“The benefits of climate-smart energy should not be at the expense of climate-smart food.
“Fishing industry representatives need to be given a stronger and more effective voice in the planning process to ensure that the potential impact on the fleet of proposed developments and conservation zones are adequately expressed and considered so that impacts can be avoided or minimised.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We fully understand the need to balance the growth of the offshore renewables sector and protection for the marine environment with continued investment in Scotland’s seafood and wider marine sectors and the communities and jobs which rely on them. That is why we will carefully consider this report from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations.
“Our recently published Blue Economy Vision sets out our ambition for balancing the competing pressures on the marine environment. In this vision we made clear that Scotland’s seas and waters have a key role to play in contributing to the nation’s future economic prosperity, especially in remote, rural and island communities – and that a healthy marine environment is essential to supporting this ambition.
“As we progress plans to develop Scotland’s offshore wind sector and increase protection for our marine environment, we are engaging closely with the fishing industry. For example, the sector was extensively involved in helping to identify suitable sites for offshore wind development.
“Scottish ministers have been clear that a just transition must be at the heart of Scotland’s journey to net-zero. This means that, as we reduce our emissions and respond to a changing climate, our journey is fair and creates a better future for everyone – regardless of where they live, what they do, and who they are.
“Becoming net-zero by 2045 will transform all sectors of our economy and society. But, with careful planning and close working with communities, business, industry, we will ensure that this economic transformation is managed fairly for workers in existing industries.”
Earlier this year 17 projects were offered the rights to specific areas of the seabed for offshore wind development as part of the ScotWind leasing auction.
As well as the existing Beatrice project, the Moray East and Moray West wind farms are being developed off the east coast and there are plans to build the Pentland Floating Offshore Wind Farm around 6.5 kilometres off Dounreay.
Scotland is home to the world’s first floating wind farm, Hywind, around 30km from Peterhead.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding