Windfloat Atlantic was the much-lauded first offshore project installed in Portuguese waters. Since it began, fishermen claim fish have simply 'disappeared' from around a mile each way...

Offshore renewable energy plans need rethinking – environmentalists

Too many potential negative impacts on natural world/ people’s lives

Four environmental associations have put their heads over the parapet to argue that it’s time to rethink areas earmarked for offshore renewable energy projects.

This is the next logical step in a wrangle that has already seen extraordinary claims from fishermen over how wind farms have turned parts of the sea into ‘marine deserts’.

Without environmentalists’ weight, the fishermen’s opposition could have been sidelined. But now four respected associations have come forwards to essentially agree with the fishing fraternity, saying it is time for a great deal more transparency and public participation, beyond public consultation deadlines. 

A statement issued by ZERO, Associação Natureza Portugal|WWF, SPEA (the society for the protection of birds) and Sciaena (the association of marine sciences and cooperation) says that “in the race to decarbonise our energy systems, we must not forget that the underlying objective of this energy transition is to stop the degradation of the environment, for the benefit of nature and people. 

“We reiterate that the response to the climate crisis is urgent, but it cannot be at the expense of aggravating the biodiversity crisis”, which wind farms, in their plethora, would seemingly do.

As the four stress, economic aspects “continue to take precedence in these issues, to the detriment of the protection of biodiversity and the inclusion of civil society” – and the result is a “growing degradation of the marine environment

They claim “it is essential to exclude or redesign all areas that affect the major migratory routes of seabirds and marine mammals, as well as other areas identified by seabird sensitivity mapping,” to avoid overlapping with classified or to be classified areas.

In this sense, they have identified some “particularly problematic” areas that need rethinking: Ericeira, because it is sandwiched between two Special Protection Areas (Berlengas Islands and Cabo Raso), and potentially overlaps with an area proposed for classification as a Marine Protected Area of Community Interest, and Viana do Castelo (North and South), due to the overlap with areas of greater sensitivity for seabirds, “excessive proximity” to the coast and overlap with fishing areas considered important for local communities.

“It is important to emphasise that environmental concerns are also growing in the face of the possibility of dredging ecologically sensitive estuaries that are part of the Natura 2000 network, such as the Sado and Ria de Aveiro, in order to increase the load capacity for port infrastructure linked to the expansion of offshore wind energy,” they add.

For the organisations behind this position, it is “crucial to evaluate alternatives”. 

The four also call for the models of contracts that will be signed with the promoters, the pre-qualification criteria and those that will “guide the selection of proposals at auction” to be made public.

This is a very important step in the campaign already underway by fishing associations that have warned that if all the proposed offshore wind farms for Portugal’s coast are sanctioned by the government, the nation’s fishing industry will be destroyed. ND

Source: Observador/ Lusa