North Sea

North Sea

A Great Wall – in the sea

Fishermen are being excluded from the debate relating to windfarm development in the North Sea, according to Job Schot of Eurocutter Job Senior Z-201, who has been prominent in questioning the rapid changes taking place.

‘I’m opposed to windfarms,‘ he said. ‘I’m a fisherman and this has a huge effect on how we make our living. But we have to accept that this isn’t going away.’

Since the first wind turbines appeared in the North Sea a couple of decades back, the rate of change has increased, and today fishing grounds are disappearing at breakneck speed, with little attention paid to those who question this.

‘Fishermen are not accepted by the government as stakeholders and we are being sidelined in favour of the wind energy companies. The fishing industry should have the same level of representation as others, but that’s definitely not the case at the moment,’ he said.

Job Senior Z-201 fishing through winter weather

‘But energy is an industry that turns over billions. By comparison, fishing is small.’

He commented that with the increase in windfarm deployment and areas that are being closed to fishing, there’s no way to plan for the future, adding that it’s no coincidence that turbines are placed on the best fishing grounds.

‘The soft grounds are where it’s easy to locate the turbines. It’s less easy and more expensive to put them on rocky grounds.’

Seen on Job Senior’s radar screen, one of the windfarm blocks that form what fishermen now refer to as The Great Wall

He said that while he and the fishing industry are opposed to the race to turn the sea into windfarms, this shouldn’t be mistaken for a determination to oppose change.

‘We’re not opposed to innovation – quite the opposite. We need to innovate and create options for the future. But we are telling the wind industry that there has to be a fair exchange,’ he said.

‘They have our fishing grounds, so there needs to be a payback in the form of producing hydrogen that can power a new generation of fishing vessels. That’s the future at sea.’

Job Schot and the crew of Job Senior Z-201

He said that recently Job Senior has been doing well trawling for shrimp off the coasts of Zeeland and Belgium, and so far fishing has been good – and so have prices.

‘Up to now, we haven’t lost any shrimp grounds,’ he said, but pointed out a block off the coast that covers what used to be good fishing grounds.

‘It’s like the Great Wall of China, but built in the sea,’ he said.

Windfarms extend as far as the eye can see across what used to be productive fishing grounds

‘All this has a huge impact on ecosystems as flows and currents are affected, both in the sea and in the air. There are plumes leading off downstream that extent 70 kilometres, but this gets no attention and it isn’t questioned.’

As well as the loss of extensive North Sea grounds, there is also a looming uncertainty over the fishing grounds that Job Senior and others have traditionally fished in the English Channel.

‘We see what is happening in English waters with wind power and MPAs. The same happening there, and we can see the same thing coming on the French side of the Channel. But the big question is access to the 6-12 mile zone in UK waters,’ he said.

‘We have access for a few years to these waters. But what then? Will Europe be strong enough in its bargaining to ensure that we can maintain our rights to fish these waters in the future?’