Irish fishermen are seriously concerned that a plan for seven offshore windfarms may scare fish away from their spawning areas, negatively impacting their business.
The concerns arose just before Christmas after Climate Minister Eamon Ryan approved seven offshore windfarms, calling the move a “significant milestone on the pathway to decarbonising energy supply.”
The Minister said at the time that these were the “most viable and well-advanced offshore energy projects.”
The seven windfarms in question are among 60 others which are being planned, which will amount to at least 487 offshore wind turbines spanning hundreds of square kilometres along the Irish coast.
However, according to Aodh O’Donnell, the CEO of the Irish Fisher Producers Association, the plan has caused much concern among Irish fishermen.
“There is significant and serious concern about the displacement impact on fish stocks from the proposed windfarms,” he said.
“This is because areas targeted for windfarms are the main spawning and catching areas.”
Moreover, when these turbines were being discussed last year, O’Donnell complained that fishermen were not being asked about these decisions.
“Co-operation works both ways, and we are not being consulted,” he said previously.
“Available charts indicate that most of the rich Irish Sea fishing area is targeted for turbine development.
“Fishing vessels could be displaced if there is an untrammelled development of offshore wind turbines. Our industry has already taken too many hits, but proper consultation could allow us all to co-exist.
“However, environment minister Eamon Ryan is reported to have signed off on six Irish Sea developments which will move to the planning stage. There is unease that this appears to be rushed.
“Given the offshore competition for space, we have to work hard and collaboratively to defend our members’ interests.”
He said that specifically, some vessels fishing for valuable Dublin Bay prawns were facing “uncertainty” in light of the move.
He added: “There are issues around marine interests and socio-economic or environmental impact assessments. But there are also huge questions about foreign ownership of Irish energy sources, which could affect future energy security.”
By this he referred to the fact that French firm Electricité de France (EDF) reportedly owns half of the ambitious project.
The French energy firm was recently nationalised by the French government, meaning that France will own half of one of Ireland’s biggest energy projects. This could potentially threaten energy security going forward.