A FISHERIES organisation has said that our seas, including off West Cork, are set to become the ‘new frontiers’ of Europe, following the recent publication of the Climate Bill, which puts a huge emphasis on offshore energy.
Plans for largescale offshore windfarms were unveiled in the government’s Climate Bill this week, but may face huge opposition from the fisheries industry and environmental groups.
While given a cautious welcome by all three of Cork South West’s TDs, local fisheries interests have said it confirmed their worst fears about the coast being potentially littered with major windfarms which could pose a threat to fish stocks, spawning grounds and other aquaculture.
Local TD Christopher O’Sullivan (FF), who is also a whale watching guide, while welcoming the Bill, told The Southern Star, that no project should be allowed to proceed unless there is indepth research carried out in advance, into the effect on the whale and dolphin populations, as well as other biodiversity.
Patrick Murphy of the Irish South & West Fisheries Organisation told The Southern Star that the ‘commandeering’ of sites at sea by windfarm developers today was akin to the land grabs from the native Americans in the 19th century. ‘This is the next frontier for Europe, we are going to see Ireland surrounded by these giant turbines.’
As the cabinet signed off on the ambitious Bill, Climate Action Minister Eamon Ryan spoke of expanding the offshore wind sector ‘at scale’ and envisaged windfarms off the south and west coast.
There are already plans in train for seven largescale farms off the Cork/Waterford coast.
Mr Murphy, while not in total opposition to offshore energy, said the developers need to start consulting with affected parties, like the fishing industry.
He added that Europe has committed to producing 300 gigabytes of power from wind energy – about 30,000 turbines around Europe’s coast – and Ireland has now become an attractive location for big energy firms.
‘But what we need is local jobs, local security. This is all happening at sea and this is big business, and if it’s not done right, it will damage spawning grounds,’ said Mr Murphy.
The Bill was welcomed this week by local politicians, and the Green party in Cork South West issued a statement saying: ‘We can at last speak to the future with hope that we are doing enough to ensure the stability and prosperity of everyone on this island.’
Deputy Holly Cairns of the Social Democrats said that progress in this area is most welcome ‘but it must happen in partnership with fishermen and women, the marine sector and coastal and island communities. A key pillar of a just transition is involving those directly affected in the decision making process.’
Niall Ó Faoláin of Waterford-based community group Blue Horizon said that while they were not opposed in principle to offshore wind, they were disappointed to see proposals for massive farms just 5km offshore, while most European countries have a 22km exclusion zone. Deputy Michael Collins said he agreed with the suggestion of a 22km limit.
Beara’s Patrick Lyne of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has launched an offshore energy policy document, recommending ‘all mitigation procedures’ and the assessment of requirements be coordinated by one body, to avoid differences in implementation by regulators, and guidelines be updated for best practice.