“I’m delighted to take up the role as Vice Chair of the WEI Fishing Working Group. During the early part of my career, I worked closely with the fishing industry carrying out fisheries assessments and mapping sensitive biological habitats for stock assessment and conservation. For the past 15 years I’ve worked within the offshore wind and wave energy sectors, so I believe I have good appreciation from both perspectives. I’m determined to promote a balanced co-existence between the offshore wind developments and local fishing communities, which I believe is challenging but achievable,” says John Breslin, MD at BlueWise Marine, about his new appointment.
Wind is Ireland’s leading renewable energy source and was estimated to provide 36% of country’s electricity in 2021. Recently the Irish Government has increased its offshore wind ambition by 2030 to 7GW. Wind can generate higher energy yields in the open sea; however, these new developments can also overlap with various business, recreational and conservation activities.
While the impacts of constructing offshore windfarms are continuously studied, particular attention is given to assessing effects on fishing communities and marine life. Concerns such as displacement of fishing activities, possible stress, mortality and ecological effects on commercial species and other marine life are rigorously evaluated to ensure the environment surrounding a potential windfarm is of Good Environmental Status (GES), minimising impacts on the livelihoods of the fishing community as well as safeguarding the ecosystem.
Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), should play a large role in mitigating conflicts amongst the different users of the sea. This includes both traditional and emerging industries, as well as recreation, all whilst maintaining a healthy marine environment. MSP employs an informed and sustainable approach to decision-making to include all stakeholders and manage our waters in a more holistic, balanced way. There is great potential for wind energy and fishing to co-exist in Ireland and it can be done through collaboration and transparency.
Fishing Working Group brings WEI’ members working in the offshore wind sector together to discuss ways of building positive and productive relationships with Ireland’s fishing community. The Working Group provides a platform for knowledge and skills transfer, while also serving as an open communication channel with the fishing community who possess vital local knowledge and perspective and can offer timely and honest information on developments in the construction areas. Transparent inclusive communication should be maintained throughout the lifecycle of development projects, starting early on. It helps optimise wind farms not only in terms of design, but also in terms of their impact on nature and local livelihoods.
“We’re very conscious of the need to share the marine space and to find ways to co-exist with fishermen. We want them to see the development of offshore wind as an opportunity that can benefit everyone who lives and works on Ireland’s coasts,” – says Justin Moran, Director of External Affairs at WEI.
The Working Group meets once a month and coordinates WEI’s member’ engagement nationally with the fishing community. These meetings offer an opportunity to share best practice and work on policy issues as well as facilitate discussions on communication and engagement with the fishing industry.
Wind Energy Ireland (WEI) is a representative body for the Irish wind industry. It was set up to promote wind energy as essential and sustainable part of Ireland’s energy portfolio. WEI produces research and offers consultations for government decision-making with regards to renewable energy, with particular focus on wind. The organization also coordinates public engagement, capacity development and ensures collaboration and exchange with European partners. The research is carried out through committees, which are further organized into working groups.
BlueWise Marine Ltd. provides stakeholder engagement, fisheries monitoring, marketing, HSEQ & infrastructure services for marine and offshore renewable energy projects.