Co-existence in busy seas: some insights from the primary sectors of activity
Pressures over use of the limited space in European regional seas by stakeholder groups is intense. Historically active stakeholders (e.g., fishing, shipping, oil and gas) are not only continuing, but are also increasing their activities; new stakeholders (e.g., renewable energy; environmental conservation) are also now increasing activities and pushing for more space. Such pressures have been investigated and compared across areas in two regional seas: the Eastern English Channel, the German Bight, the Dogger Bank and the Gulf of Gdansk.
The majority of stakeholders feel pressure over space in the seas will increase in the future. Pressures are primarily due to proposals and plans for offshore wind farms, the newest entrants to these busy seas. The uncertainty of impacts, such as on fishing, are cause of great concern.
In all case study sites, the majority of stakeholders feel pressure over space in the seas will increase in the future. Pressures are primarily due to proposals and plans for offshore wind farms, the newest entrants to these busy seas. In some case study areas, such as the eastern English Channel and Dogger Bank, applications have already been approved with construction planned; in the German Bight windmill parks already exist and at least in the Dutch part new proposals have been made. In others, such as the Gulf of Gdansk, such developments are further away- and unlikely to happen soon due to various constraints - yet the uncertainty of impacts, such as on fishing, is cause of great concern.
The concern for the future stems from the view that the seas are already fully exploited (e.g. Gulf of Gdansk), leaving no room for new industries (e.g., renewable energy in the Channel, Dogger Bank and Gulf of Gdansk), or rather, meaning space awarded to new industries would come from areas where old industries had been operating, thus constricting their activities.
Fishing is one of the oldest activities in all four of the case study areas and though fishers in each area tend to use different gears and face different pressures, there are a number of similarities among them. These pressures include: regulatory pressures, competition with other users, and area restrictions.
Regulatory pressures: A large number of fishers catch quota species and, with the TAC limits imposed in recent years, combined with high operating costs and uncertain futures, are in decline. In the Gulf of Gdansk, given their status as a relatively new MS, Polish fishers face additional pressures resulting from the “growing pains” associated with recently coming under EU regulations such as the CFP. Furthermore, many area closures in all case studies areas are driven by MS and EU policies such as the Habitats and Bird Directives and the new Marine Strategy Framework Directive (EU) and the Marine Coastal Access Act (UK), limiting the area available for fishing.
Competition with other stakeholders: In all case study areas spatial competition with other users was viewed as a concern for fishers, including in regards to the unknowns associated with future users.
Currently, in the German Bight, competition stems from wind mill parks, maritime traffic, other fishers and area conservation closures, both temporary such as spawning sites as well as those of a more permanent nature such as Natura 2000 sites. Competition with conservation area closures is also found in the Gulf of Gdansk, English Channel and the Dogger Bank.
Competition for space is also found among different groups of fishers themselves. This was particularly an issue in the eastern English Channel where boats using different gear come from further afield (e.g. Belgium and the Netherlands), competing with local (UK and FR) boats for space, but is also an issue in the German Bight. In the Gulf of Gdansk this competition is present but arises mainly from the way the quotas are divided. Competition for space is less important in this dispute. Competition among differing fishing subgroups is not an issue in the Dogger Bank.
The marine aggregate industry has its longest history in the UK portion of the English Channel and there they are viewed as being the greatest limiting factor for fishing, after conservation. The issue with aggregates is the seabed is altered thus, even once a space opens up again, it is no longer suitable for the same fishing activities to take place.
Relevance for Policy:
- Common Fisheries Policy
- Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management (forthcoming)
- EU Biodiversity Strategy
- Habitats and Birds Directive
- Integrated European Maritime Policy (IMP)
- Marine and Coastal Access Act
- Marine Strategy Framework Directive
- Water Framework Directive