Dutch fleet faces loss of fishing grounds

Due to the current expansion of wind mill parks the Dutch fishing fleet fears a huge loss of fishing grounds. With the continuing the expansion of thousands of wind mills, fishermen expect that fishing on a postage stamp will soon become a reality.

The number of windmills in Dutch waters is set to increase rapidly – not only in the North Sea but also in the fresh waters of the IJsselmeer where a fleet of small fishing boats catches eel, perch, pike perch and roach. In a demonstration of their anger and frustration, last month fishermen took their protests against the energy sector to a gathering off the coast along Breezanddijk. This is a remote location in the middle of the huge Afsluitdijk – but close to a huge wind mill park. About sixty fishing vessels gathered for the demonstration.

Wind farms have been taking over productive fishing grounds for several years now and EMK chairman Dirk Kraak has found that the Environmental Impact Report lacks a great deal of important detail. He claims the reports are not complete, and asks why fish stocks have not been included in the environmental impact assessments, along withpotential effects on the rest of the marine environment.

The protest brought together both seagoing and inland fisheries vessels. All images: WM den Heijer

‘These environmental impact assessments have been created mainly thanks to the vigilance of NGOs. In the meantime, hundreds of reports with photos of birds killed by windmill blades have been received in recent years. This is very difficult to monitor at sea, but for the sake of establishing such a wind farm, a certain mortality percentage has been assumed for the sake of convenience. The NGOs keep quiet,’ Dirk Kraak said.

‘And there is more. For each constructed offshore wind farm, a large protected nature area must be established as compensation. As a result, the fishermen are caught out twice. But that compensation is not quite right. An environmental impact assessment (EIA) must be carried out prior to carrying out an infrastructural intervention in the sea. This maps out the chances of possible changes in or loss of benthic life.’

The protest fleet steaming past the Afsluitsdijk through clouds of flare smoke

He commented that wind turbines cause much more misery, ‘especially underwater,’ he said.

In the southern North Sea there are strong currents and within such a wind farm they continuously cause significant sand displacement. Flatfish such as sole, turbot, plaice, dab and others that lie buried with their eyes just above the sand are constantly covered with a new layer of sand, which makes this a much less attractive environment for flatfish.

EMK chairman Dirk Kraak, in front of a demonstration that generated a great deal of publicity

In addition, the rotating blades create vibrations and sound underwater. According to Dirk Kraak, fish are very sensitive to this, as well as to the electrical field around the undersea power cables, which prevents fish from determining their position.

Skipper Bauke Koornstra of shrimp trawler WON-50 joined in the demonstration

‘These are aspects that have not been researched but that do have an impact on underwater life,’ he said.

The fishermen argue for much better research and want to be involved in the location choices for wind farms and protected areas, and the industry’s preference is for planned wind turbines to be placed in existing protected areas.

Dirk Kraak is overwhelmingly supported by the Dutch fishermen, who are keenly aware of all the threats they face.

‘Action is necessary to make our point, because we get hardly any response from government and environmental organisations.

Unfortunately, we are not economically significant and we have the strong impression that we are seen as a nuisance in a world that is panicking about climate change,’ Dirk Kraak said.

‘This is a phenomenon that has been going on for thousands of years and which we cannot reduce or stop.’