The construction of new offshore wind farms in EU seas could have “severe negative impact on marine life and fisheries”, MEPs have alerted in a report.

The text stresses that fishers and stakeholders must have a “fair participation” in the decision process related to the construction of offshore wind farms in European waters.

This cooperation could help in reducing the potential negative impact of wind turbines on fisheries and strengthen the relationship between the sectors involved, MEPs argue.

They highlight that coastal and small-scale fisheries, which account for 80% of all fishing vessels in the EU, can be particularly harmed by the installation of new wind turbines in the sea.

Member states should “foresee appropriate compensation for fishers whose activity is affected and facilitate access to insurance for vessels operating in or sailing through areas with offshore wind farms”.

Cross-border cooperation

Cross-border cooperation with the UK is also crucial according to MEPs, given that more than 85% of all offshore wind capacity in EU-27 waters is concentrated in the Northern Seas and European fishermen will continue to share EU waters with British counterparts.

To minimise the risks of the large-scale rollout of offshore wind farms, parliament also calls for more research on how to avoid and mitigate negative effects on the sea basin during construction, operation and decommissioning.

Financial arrangements should be in place to cover long-term risks arising from abandoned infrastructure, MEPs added.

Member states should ensure that these wind farms are “placed away from fishing grounds and only built if there’s guarantee of no negative environmental, ecological, socioeconomic and sociocultural impact”, in line with the Blue Economy and the European Green Deal.

Demand to be met by offshore wind

MEPs add that other renewable energy systems – such as floating wind farms, renewable hydrogen, wind and solar energy – could be more appropriate in some areas where fishing activities take place, highlighting the importance of boosting investments on research and development in this regard.

The possibility to combine and integrate offshore wind farms within marine protected areas (MPAs) should also be considered.

“Fishermen are the oldest users of the sea and consequently there must be a real cooperation with them if wind farms are built offshore,” the rapporteur, Peter van Dalen said.

“They earn their living on the water and it is therefore only logical that this sector should be given a decisive voice in the form of an effective participation, more than just a consultation.”

According to the European Commission’s estimate, 30% of the EU’s electricity demand in 2050 will be met by offshore wind, corresponding to an increase from the current 12GW offshore wind capacity in the EU-27 to a target of 300GW in 2050.

The European marine space already counts 110 offshore wind farms with more than 5,000 wind turbines.

‘Cleaner seas’ as single use plastic items banned in Ireland

Meanwhile, Irish beaches and seas can expect to become cleaner as single use plastic items are now banned in Ireland.

The EU’s Single Use Plastic (SUP) Directive has come into force and it delivers on the EU’s plastics strategy.

Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune has welcomed the ban, highlighting the damage single use plastics cause to the environment.

“EU rules on single use plastic products are aiming to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment and it is important that we all play our part,” the MEP said.