By Cheryl Peebles

Fife’s fishing industry could be hit by the loss of a vital fishing ground
to an offshore wind farm.

Eight turbines up to 800ft high may be built off the coast of Methil, in an
area of rich pickings for fishermen from both sides of the Firth of Forth.

Although the Forthwind developers insist fishing could continue around some
of the massive structures those in the industry say it would become a no-go

Tom Mackenzie, manager of the Fishermen’s Mutual Association (Pittenweem),
said: “It would be too dangerous to fish there.

“These turbines would be right slap bang in the middle of prawn grounds,
affecting not just us but fishermen on both sides of Forth.

“Fishermen have been fishing there for a long time and they get a really
good quality of prawn there.”

North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie said Fife’s fishing industry already
faced disruption from up to 54 turbines to be built next year off the coast
of Fife Ness in the Neart Na Gaoithe project.

He said: “Fishermen are quite rightly deeply concerned that they have been
sidelined in development of offshore wind farms.

“The turbines and cables running to land could both cause significant
disruption to their fishing grounds.”

Talks were taking place with renewable companies regarding a plan to
mitigate the threat, he said, and added: “That needs to be progressed very
quickly to make sure that they can protect these valuable fishing grounds.

“The East Neuk villages are recognised for the quality of the product they
ship and therefore we have a responsibility to get this right.”

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said it was “concerned at the prospect
of any development which threatens fishers’ ability to earn a living”.

Malcolm Morrison, policy officer, said: “Since this development impinges on
grounds vital to the viability of small nephrops trawlers from both sides
of the Forth, the federation has entered into the consultation process with
the developers to try to lessen the impact on the local vessels.

“The main problems are from the cables exporting power and moorings from
any floating turbines, either of which make it impossible for trawlers to
work in the area.

“There are times of the year when the earnings from these grounds are very
important to these vessels, which are limited in their ability to move to
grounds further afield.”

Two of the Forthwind demonstration turbines have already been permitted by
Marine Scotland but 2B Energy will seek the go-ahead for a further six,
potentially two of them floating turbines.

2B Energy said it had revised its original proposal for up to nine turbines
as a result of discussions with stakeholders.

Marc Murray, project manager, admitted there may be a loss of fishing
ground but said fish stock could be enhanced in the long term.

He said: “Experience elsewhere has shown that the creation of artificial
reefs around the turbine foundations can enhance local fishing stock;
potentially providing a positive benefit for the local fishing community.

“We intend to continue working and speaking with the SFF and local fishing
organisations as we go through the consenting process to create a project
that not only benefits the fishing industry and 2B Energy but also the
local community.”

The turbine layout, he said, had been designed to minimise impact on
commercial fishing, with floating turbines in a designated foul area
formerly a mine test.

The company intends to apply for formal consent in the first quarter of 2018.

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