Scotland's plans to accelerate offshore wind development are facing resistance from the fishing industry, which has accused government agencies of rushing some projects forward without proper consultation.
The Shetland Fishermen’s Association and Shetland Fish Producers’ Organization, known collectively as Shetland Fishermen (SFA), has raised concerns over plans to locate offshore wind farms in rich fishing grounds west of Shetland - a development that could have adverse impacts on commercial fishing.
SFA has expressed anger over “a series of glaring flaws in the process” for new leasing of offshore wind farms that are designed to help decarbonize Scotland’s oil and gas sector. These projects are being undertaken by Crown Estate Scotland.
The concerns relate to the Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas (INTOG) leasing round, under which developers have been invited to apply for the right to build offshore wind farms specifically for the purpose of providing low carbon electricity to offshore oil and gas installations.
Crown Estate Scotland announced in September that it plans to open the leasing process for applications in early 2022. The process is entirely separate to the giant ScotWind leasing round, which is currently under way for commercial-scale offshore wind projects across Scotland.
“The Shetland fishing industry depends on these rich grounds to the west of the islands for catching, and is hugely concerned that proper assessment of the potential impact of INTOG offshore wind on fishing is not being made,” said Sheila Keith, SFA policy officer.
She added that while the fishing industry will always support the aim of lowering carbon emissions, the INTOG consultation is being rushed through with scant attention to detail - unlike ScotWind, which involved widespread and detailed consultation.
SFA says that data on fishing activity in the areas under consideration is limited to bottom trawling and excludes other forms of fishing, like seine netting, pelagic hauls, gillnetting and longlining. It is also confined to activities by Scottish vessels, leaving out fleets from the rest of the UK, the European Union, Norway and Faroe.
“The whole process should be slowed down so that the industry can gather and fully assess fishing data from these areas. That way, existing fishing opportunities and activities can be safeguarded as required in the National Marine Plan,” said Keith.
INTOG is part of a wider scheme to accelerate offshore wind and attain zero emissions. With power generation accounting for around two thirds of oil and gas production emissions, Scottish authorities contend that the electrification of oil and gas installations is vital if industry is going to meet its 2027 and 2030 decarbonization targets as agreed in the North Sea Transition Deal.
The deal, which was agreed in March, is designed to harness the oil and gas sector’s 50 years of energy expertise to accelerate the green energy transition and create a new generation of jobs in communities across the country. Apart from offshore wind, the projects include carbon capture usage and storage and direct power from shore.
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