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NO planning, NO prior consultation with industry, and NO clear benefit to fishermen


- Hexicon / KFO windfarm deal undermines fishing industry’s efforts of a ‘united front’


Why is it always that the press statements that promise benefit for the fishing industry are the same ones that actually translate into the least real benefit for fishermen?


Last weekend’s announcement by Sean O’Donoghue, on behalf of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), that it had entered into, along with local ship agents and supply operators Sinbad Marine, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with global floating offshore wind developer, Hexicon AB for an installation in north west waters, has raised many questions amongst the fishing industry nationwide.


The first of these questions comes with the press release headline that “Fishing industry and Hexicon unveil historic collaboration” – with many people pointing out that this is misrepresentation and that the KFO is only one of a half a dozen industry subscribed representative groups and therefore it [KFO] has no right to claim that the agreement that they have entered into is ‘on behalf of’ the fishing industry as a whole.


Secondly, O’Donoghue’s statement that “this is a unique new approach to how floating wind energy can work in collaboration with fishermen and in signing this MoU, we have guaranteed that we will be at the centre of a project which has the potential to be an economically-transformative” greatly falls short of promising any kind of benefit for fishermen in any sector of inshore, demersal or pelagics.


Key decisions, including site selection, cable routing, and land fall, will be collectively analysed and agreed. Similarly, other stakeholders, including environmental organisations will also be given input at an early stage in shaping the location and design of the floating wind farms” – these are all pretty words to attempt to tick all the boxes but once again, where will the benefit be to fishermen who, at the end of the day, will see further sacrifice of their fishing grounds?


It should also be noted that the proposed site “off the northwest coast of Donegal” is promised to be at least 50km from shore - but anyone who knows the geography of Irish waters can confirm that this will mean the site is to be located in depths of 1,500m and establishing anchors and cables for a platform in such depths would be a project of vast cost, even for a global investment company.



Opinion

Coming at time when the Irish fishing industry, particularly on the east and south west coasts are fighting to save the decimation of catching opportunities on their local fishing grounds due to an influx of planned wind farms and closed areas, it is sad to see the lack of consultation with the genuine stakeholders i.e. the fishermen themselves and that the entering into an agreement with a wind farm developer flies in the face of the growing sense of unity in the industry that had been seen over the past two years in particular.


This leaves only the question of who will actually benefit? Once again while it is likely that a few people along the way will pick up some nice bonuses, another wealthy environmental company are going to make a killing and, as seems to always be the case, Irish fishermen will foot the bill.


By the way, constantly referring to this wind farm as a ‘floating platform’ seems to be trying to infer that it is the lesser of two evils in that it is not a fixed project and with less seabed disruption – but omitting the fact that such platforms require industrial-scale anchors and cables to keep it in place and major disruption of the seabed environment will still occur.


All in all, in this case too many questions remain unanswered.


If this is such a wonderful plan and to be to the benefit of fishermen, then why were other industry organisations not invited to participate in this agreement?


Also, considering that this is a project that will take place in Irish waters and will definitely impact on Irish fishermen but seems to have the blessing of one out of five of the POs, then the civil servants at the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine (DAFM) must legally be involved and yet there is no mention of this involvement in the press release.


The cynic in me senses that one body trying to ‘go it alone’ in an agreement with a group that the rest of the fishing sector are in conflict with smacks of the old ‘divide and conquer’ routine – something that this industry has suffered, but survived, for many decades, and at the end of the day, should we really be surprised by this latest attempt considering the source?


Finally, it is unfortunate to see that certain fishing representative bodies seem to have the clout to get articles published in the Sunday national papers when its suits their need but apparently do not avail of these same contacts when the industry is in dire need of the highlighting of their abuse by marine civil servants or by the SFPA.


Someone is definitely going to benefit out of wind farms in Irish waters but it sure as hell isn’t going to be Irish fishermen...

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