Recreational use of offshore wind farms: Experiences and opinions of sea anglers in the UK
The expansion of offshore wind farms (OWFs) is likely to increase conflict with other marine users as different sectors compete for space. There may also be positive interactions, as the artificial reef effects from energy infrastructure have the potential to sustain and enhance fishing opportunities. Recreational sea angling is an important sector within the UK but the experiences and opinions of UK sea anglers with respect to OWFs have not been documented. To address this, an online survey was undertaken with recreational anglers around the UK (n=199). Respondents represented a range of socio-demographic and angling characteristics, although male, more frequent and older fishers as well as club members were over-represented compared to a 2012 national survey. One quarter of the respondents had fished around the perimeter of or within an OWF, most on multiple occasions, and 73% of those who had not expressed a willingness to do so in future. Anglers reported both positive and negative effects on catch success when fishing near or within OWFs compared to their experiences of the same site prior to OWF development. Outcomes for individual species were also mixed. Anglers recognised the potential artificial reef effects of OWFs and their role as a “safe haven”, particularly due to the exclusion of commercial fishers. Negative perceptions included restricted access, harm to marine wildlife, and visual impact. There is little evidence that OWFs will have a significant economic impact on recreational fishing, as most anglers are unlikely to change their behaviour in response to future developments.