Offshore wind farm could make vital Fife fishing ground a no-go zone

Tom Mackenzie, of Fishermen's Mutual Association, said turbines could make the fishing ground a no-go zone.

Fife’s fishing industry could be hit by the loss of a vital fishing ground to an offshore wind farm.

Eight turbines up to 800ft high may be built off the coast of Methil, in an area of rich pickings for fishermen from both sides of the Firth of Forth.

Although the Forthwind developers insist fishing could continue around some of the massive structures those in the industry say it would become a no-go zone.

Tom Mackenzie, manager of the Fishermen’s Mutual Association (Pittenweem), said: “It would be too dangerous to fish there.

“These turbines would be right slap bang in the middle of prawn grounds, affecting not just us but fishermen on both sides of Forth.

“Fishermen have been fishing there for a long time and they get a really good quality of prawn there.”

North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie said Fife’s fishing industry already faced disruption from up to 54 turbines to be built next year off the coast of Fife Ness in the Neart Na Gaoithe project.

He said: “Fishermen are quite rightly deeply concerned that they have been sidelined in development of offshore wind farms.

“The turbines and cables running to land could both cause significant disruption to their fishing grounds.”

Talks were taking place with renewable companies regarding a plan to mitigate the threat, he said, and added: “That needs to be progressed very quickly to make sure that they can protect these valuable fishing grounds.

“The East Neuk villages are recognised for the quality of the product they ship and therefore we have a responsibility to get this right.”

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said it was “concerned at the prospect of any development which threatens fishers’ ability to earn a living”.

Malcolm Morrison, policy officer, said: “Since this development impinges on grounds vital to the viability of small nephrops trawlers from both sides of the Forth, the federation has entered into the consultation process with the developers to try to lessen the impact on the local vessels.

“The main problems are from the cables exporting power and moorings from any floating turbines, either of which make it impossible for trawlers to work in the area.

“There are times of the year when the earnings from these grounds are very important to these vessels, which are limited in their ability to move to grounds further afield.”

Two of the Forthwind demonstration turbines have already been permitted by Marine Scotland but 2B Energy will seek the go-ahead for a further six, potentially two of them floating turbines.

2B Energy said it had revised its original proposal for up to nine turbines as a result of discussions with stakeholders.

Marc Murray, project manager, admitted there may be a loss of fishing ground but said fish stock could be enhanced in the long term.

He said: “Experience elsewhere has shown that the creation of artificial reefs around the turbine foundations can enhance local fishing stock; potentially providing a positive benefit for the local fishing community.

“We intend to continue working and speaking with the SFF and local fishing organisations as we go through the consenting process to create a project that not only benefits the fishing industry and 2B Energy but also the local community.”

The turbine layout, he said, had been designed to minimise impact on commercial fishing, with floating turbines in a designated foul area formerly a mine test.

The company intends to apply for formal consent in the first quarter of 2018.