The lead author of a new study has stated that there is still too little knowledge about effects of the marine wind energy sector on fisheries.
‘We lack knowledge of what effects, for example, noise, electromagnetic radiation from the cables and less wind or changing current patterns will have,’ said Anne Christine Utne Palm at the Norwegian Institute for Marine Research.
‘We know too little today about how sea wind will affect fisheries.’
Anne Christine Utne Palm has led the work on a new report with the aim of outlining the consequences the offshore wind farms in Hywind Tampen, Sørlege Nordsjø II and Utsira Nord will have for the fishing industry, based on today’s knowledge base, and to establish what knowledge is lacking.
Researchers also interviewed the fishermen who are active in the relevant areas, in order to gain experience-based local knowledge about the fisheries in the three different areas.
‘There are very few studies in the world that look at the effect of sea wind on fisheries, and of these, what we have found, none have included catch data,’ sh esaid, commenting that from the research that has been done so far, it is clear that offshore wind farms can affect the ecosystem locally.
‘But we do not know how large the affected area will be, and whether the effects seen locally can lead to effects on entire populations and larger areas. How large the development is will of course play into this. We know that different species react differently to – for example – noise, electromagnetism or changing currents. Some species will probably benefit from development, while others will be negatively affected.’
She commented that fishermen participating in the survey were concerned that further research needs as long a time perspective as possible.
‘They said that if you only use catch data from the last four, five years, you will miss out on a lot of information, because the fisheries change from year to year, and over longer periods. An example is Atlanto-Scandian herring, which changed their migration pattern for a while, only to later return to their “usual” behaviour,’ she explained, adding that fishermen were concerned about avoiding development in important migration and spawning areas, as well as expansion into spawning areas for sandeel, which is a key feed species for important commercial species such as cod, pollock and haddock.
‘The fishermen’s opinion is that Hywind Tampen is an example of poor co-existence between offshore wind and fisheries. The fishermen were not consulted concerning the location, so that the wind farm was located across fishing grounds. They are keen to avoid pitting the needs of the two industries against each other as more are built, and feel that there should be enough space for both industries,’ she commented.
The conclusion of the team’s research is that the current knowledge base is too flimsy to be able to give solid answers to questions from the fishing industry. The remedy is also clear, and perhaps not so surprising – that more knowledge is needed.
‘In order to get answers to what the effects of offshore wind farms will be, we have to carry out preliminary studies over several years and seasons. We have to follow how fish, the environment and the ecosystem develop through development and into the operational phase,’ Anne Christine Utne Palm said.