This study provides a review of research of relevance to existing evidence gaps of the potential impacts of Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) developments on fish and commercial fishing in the UK, and identifies recommendations for future research to address them.
The broad evidence gaps categories on which the study is focused are based on those identified by the Scottish Marine Energy Research (ScotMER) programme's fish and fisheries evidence map. These are considered of relevance in an UK-wide context and include the following:
- FF.01: Accurate mapping of fishing effort and catches in space and time;
- FF.02: Accurate and validated method to predict fisheries displacement levels and locations;
- FF.03: Fisheries stakeholders integration and participation process;
- FF.04: Improvements in Environmental Impact Assessment methodologies;
- FF.05: Strategic fisheries management;
- FF.06: Underwater noise and vibrations;
- FF.07: Electromagnetic fields (EMF);
- FF:08: Collision risk (tidal turbines);
- FF.09: Accurate spatio-temporal patterns of spawning activity by marine fish species;
- FF.10: Essential fish habitat (EFH);
- FF.11: Reef/fish aggregation effect;
- FF.12: Inshore populations/distribution;
- FF.13: Cumulative pressures and impact pathways;
- FF.14: Co-existence with commercial fisheries: and
- FF.15: Chemical/toxicity effects.
Research of relevance to the above evidence gaps was reviewed using internet search engines. In addition, in parallel, targeted consultation via questionnaires was undertaken with a range of UK and international experts and stakeholders including research institutions and universities, fisheries stakeholders, nature conservation organisations, developers and research and industry groups.
Taking account of the findings of the literature review and the consultation exercise, next steps in research to address each evidence gap were identified. Following this, recommendations for future research were proposed.
Key recommendations identified in respect of fish receptors relate to improving our understanding of the impacts of offshore wind farms on fish and shellfish species through the implementation of strategic research in operational sites. Other key priority aspects in respect of fish and shellfish relate to improving the evidence base to facilitate the assessment of underwater noise impacts and the development of mapping tools on essential habitat (including spawning grounds).
In the case of commercial fisheries, key recommendations identified relate to improving access to fisheries data and the format in which data are made available, as well as the development of standard assessment guidelines and research to allow the assessment of the displacement effects at a strategic level. In addition, the undertaking of trials to demonstrate the viability of fishing within operational sites, as well as the development of technical guidance on wind farm design and its compatibility with fishing were also identified as critical aspects to reduce consenting risks and uncertainty in relation to commercial fisheries receptors.
The strong inter-dependence that exists between various evidence gaps was noted and it was recommended that when preparing future detailed research proposals to address evidence gaps, their inter-dependencies are given due consideration.
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