Fishing within offshore wind farms in the North Sea: Stakeholder perspectives for multi-use from Scotland and Germany
Offshore wind power generation requires large areas of sea to accommodate its activities, with increasing claims for exclusive access. As a result, pressure is placed on other established maritime uses, such as commercial fisheries. The latter sector has often been taking a back seat in the thrust to move energy production offshore, thus leading to disagreements and conflicts among the different stakeholder groups. In recognition of the latter, there has been a growing international interest in exploring the combination of multiple maritime activities in the same area (multi-use; MU), including the re-instatement of fishing activities within, or in close proximity to, offshore wind farms (OWFs). We summarise local stakeholder perspectives from two sub-national case studies (East coast of Scotland and Germany's North Sea EEZ) to scope the feasibility of combining multiple uses of the sea, such as offshore wind farms and commercial fisheries. We combined a desk-based review with 15 semi-structured qualitative interviews with key knowledge holders from both industries, regulators, and academia to aggregate key results. Drivers, barriers and resulting effects (positive and negative) for potential multi-use of fisheries and OWFs are listed and ranked (57 factors in total). Factors are of economic, social, policy, legal, and technical nature. To date, in both case study areas, the offshore wind industry has shown little interest in multi-use solutions, unless clear added value is demonstrated and no risks to their operations are involved. In contrast, the commercial fishing sector is proactive towards multi-use projects and acts as a driving force for MU developments. We provide a range of management recommendations, based on stakeholder input, to support progress towards robust decision making in relation to multi-use solutions, including required policy and regulatory framework improvements, good practice guidance, empirical studies, capacity building of stakeholders and improvements of the consultation process. Our findings represent a comprehensive depiction of the current state and key stakeholder aspirations for multi-use solutions combining fisheries and OWFs. We believe that the pathways towards robust decision making in relation to multi-use solutions suggested here are transferable to other international locations.