Fishing vessel and offshore wind turbines Fishing vessel and offshore wind turbines

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Offshore wind and fishing activities: is co-location possible?

In light of the complex needs of the offshore wind and fishing industries, our report for Defra considers what adaptations could feasibly enable co-location


Background

The rapid expansion of the offshore wind farm (OWF) sector, in line with the UK Government’s net zero target, is likely to contribute to increasing demand and spatial pressure on the marine environment in UK waters. This demand means that actively sharing and managing marine resources across different sectors, to achieve co-location, is pertinent to ensuring successful marine spatial planning, and the continuation of vital industries.

In particular, there is increasing concern by the fishing industry of the effects of spatial squeeze and displacement of fishing effort. Where the location of OWFs cannot avoid fishing grounds, there is a need to understand potential adaptations to wind farms and to fishing gears and techniques which can help minimise displacement of fishing and enable co-location.

The factors influencing fishing and OWF co-location are complex and site-specific. Both industries agree on its importance, and there has been progress on both sides. However, there is not a unifying strategy; further collaboration, research and knowledge is required.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) contracted ABPmer, with support from Marine Resources Assessment Group (MRAG), to provide an assessment of future offshore wind farms and fishing methodologies to enable co-location.

Co-location

For the purpose of our study, co-location is defined as:

“Two (or more) activities being actively managed together whilst sharing (or occupying) the same spatial area”

In practical terms, this refers to the resumption of fishing within OWF arrays (groups of turbines) and post-construction of a wind farm.

Our report details potential possible adaptations that could be made to fishing methods and OWF arrays (including inter-array cables within the wind farms) to enable co-location. It will enable policymakers, developers and the fishing industry to better understand what is possible, and aid future discussions.

Methodology and scope

The project assesses existing literature on potential adaptations and draws on the expertise and experience of industry and technical experts, to identify and assess the ‘real-world’ feasibility of implementing any potential adaptations that could facilitate co-location.

Our report encompasses adaptations that can be adopted after the leasing process and site selection has taken place. Hence, the focus is on potential adaptations that may be considered during the consenting phase, which can facilitate continued fishing within arrays during the operational lifespan of an OWF. Cable routes are out of scope of the study.

Research incorporated both fixed and floating OWF arrays, but with an emphasis on fixed (to minimise duplication with other initiatives). The project scope is to produce outcomes and recommendations to enable co-location in England and Wales; however, the research includes information and experience from other UK administrations and beyond.

Likely, feasible and viable adaptations

A number of potential adaptations to OWFs were identified. The top adaptations considered most likely to support co-location were:

  1. Wind turbine generator array layout and orientation
  2. Clear corridors
  3. Improved cable mapping (and associated measures, such as sufficient cable burial and monitoring for exposure)

However, there were differences between the adaptations considered most likely to support co-location, and those perceived as being most feasible and viable. Potential adaptations were measured against three perceived variability and feasibility variables:

  • Technical feasibility (easy or difficult to design or create)
  • Implementation feasibility (easy or difficult to execute and deploy)
  • Implementation viability (ability to work or be successful in situ)

The top adaptations considered most feasible or viable were:

  1. Regular monitoring for cable exposure
  2. Improved cable mapping
  3. Fishing-friendly external cable protection
  4. Improved lighting, navigation and alarm technology on wind turbine generators

All four adaptations had a level of support from both the OWF and fisheries sectors.

Conclusions

The results from participants’ rankings reveal that improved lighting and navigational aids, and making cables safer and fishing-friendly, are the principal adaptations currently perceived as being most feasible and viable in the ‘real world’. Both adaptations are relatively low cost. Other adaptations such as adjustments to array layout have a higher cost but may provide greater support to co-location where feasible.

The proposed adaptations can be used to inform and guide the potential co-location of fishing activities within OWFs, but should be tailored to individual situations, as co-location of OWFs with fishing activities is site-specific. There are many variables associated with both fishing activities taking place within the site, and with site characteristics and leasing and consenting conditions of the OWF.

Therefore, it is imperative that the two sectors create a constructive dialogue at the very early stages of OWF development. Such dialogue would significantly improve the potential for viable co-location, and could result in totally avoiding the barriers to co-location, minimising potential conflicts and barriers, or mitigating the detrimental impacts of co-location to both sectors. This supports the development of a strategic approach to enabling co-location, underpinned by high-level policy that recognises the importance of co-location for the future viability of both industries.

Download the full report, “Adaptations to Offshore Wind Farms and Fishing Methods to Enable Co-location” at the Defra website


ABPmer routinely advises marine sectors on regulatory and policy matters and has a long history supporting government and its agencies in developing the evidence base against which policy decisions are made.

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