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Floating offshore wind and commercial fisheries

Floating offshore wind has various stakeholders to consider when developers are working in the marine environment. Tim Robbins from RPS’ Commercial Fisheries team explains more about the support available to facilitate mutually beneficial outcomes.

30 April 2024 | 5 min read
Tim Robbins
ON THIS PAGE

Supporting interaction: offshore wind developers and fisheries

RPS Commercial Fisheries team was set up last year to provide a resource for those involved in offshore development. It acts as a liaison with fisheries, providing support during the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) process and in the subsequent stages of development.

Tim Robbins, who leads the RPS team, emphasises the importance of communication with stakeholders to provide everyone with accurate, up-to-date information. In this insight, he looks at some of the stages when developers and stakeholders are likely to interact during floating offshore wind projects.

Mitigation measures and why they are needed

Different types of offshore development will interact with the marine environment in different ways. Specific to floating offshore wind, here are three factors to be aware of.


Developing different offshore environments 

Floating offshore wind farms will be developed in deeper water – moving into a different environment to fixed foundation developments. As a result, the types of fishing activity that occurs could differ from that taking place in shallower water. Projects may also be sited closer to established fisheries.


Fish aggregation

Because they provide shelter, offshore wind turbines can act attract small fish. In effect, they act like a FAD (Fish Aggregation Device). When fish aggregate, bigger predators also arrive. Fishers will be attracted to the FADs and may wish to access these fish stocks, requiring discussion with developers. 


Safety

 
The footprint of a floating offshore wind turbine is different to a fixed turbine because it uses a number of anchors, rather than a fixed foundation. Buoys will be needed to mark out where anchors are. Fixing cables will also prevent fishing inside the anchors as this would be hazardous. To protect fishers, their boats and equipment, and the turbines, cables and anchors, exclusion zones can be necessary; these can be the subject of much discussion regarding their placement.

Illustration - floating offshore wind turbines

Better communication presents opportunities for stakeholders

The concerns of different groups need to be handled with sensitivity, and discussions around the co-existence of different offshore industries can be found around the world. Tim’s view is that there are real benefits to co-existence. He highlights how the presence of a wind farm could allow areas of seabed, marine environment and certain fish species to regenerate, leading to an increase of fish stocks.

Tim explains, “Not only are we moving towards net zero from an energy point of view, but our industry can also have a great impact on the marine biodiversity around the coast as well. But we have to be careful about how we undertake development to bring all those benefits.” 

For the RPS Commercial Fisheries team, one aspect of this is the ability to work closely with researchers. The baseline studies required in consenting floating offshore wind farms provide an opportunity to improve understanding of the marine environment – such as information about the site, the species present, and impacts of previous activity. This is knowledge that future developments, developers and stakeholders could also benefit from, ensuring that floating offshore wind grows with confidence based on robust evidence.

How does the Commercial Fisheries team work at RPS?

Tim’s team have regulatory backgrounds working with commercial fisheries. They are deeply embedded in this industry, with an understanding of how it works and why. Tim explains, “As a seafarer, you've got to admire the skill involved in fishing. Underwater, it can be like a 3D game of chess that’s also affected by wind and tides – skippers on fishing boats are very technically minded, highly skilled operators of their crafts.”

The team have vast experience of liaising with multiple stakeholders in their own environments, with an awareness of the information that will be most important to each group. These stakeholders can include NGOs, conservationists and universities as well as fisheries representatives. The team work closely with the RPS Marine Consenting & Environment team, who lend their expertise in specific assessment types such as EIA. They’re also able to draw on RPS specialists and researchers in areas such as marine mammals and fish and shellfish ecology, with a connected understanding of the wider ecosystems in which they operate.

If you would like to contact our Commercial Fisheries team, please complete the form below.