Fish and fisheries research to inform ScotMER evidence gaps and future strategic research in the UK: review

This study undertook a literature review and consultation with key stakeholders to establish current knowledge for evidence gaps identified in the ScotMER Fish and Fisheries evidence map. This report includes research recommendations to help fill remaining strategic priority gaps.

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Over the next decade a significant expansion is expected in the Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) sector around the world, particularly in the offshore wind industry.

In England and Wales, The Crown Estate's Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 tender process concluded in February 2021, with six proposed new offshore wind projects. These projects together represent just under 8 GW of potential new offshore wind capacity and, subject to the conclusions of the plan level Habitats Regulation Assessment, will join the strong pipeline of UK offshore wind farms already in operation, construction and planning.

In Scotland, a new leasing round (ScotWind) launched in June 2020 by Crown Estate Scotland, will further help put the UK on track to meet the government's target for 40 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030. The aim of the ScotWind leasing round is to deliver up to 10 GW of offshore wind energy in Scottish waters.

The development of offshore wind projects under these new leasing rounds, will be vital to meet the UK's Government current target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 as well as the Scottish Government target of achieving net-zero by 2045.

To improve understanding and assess the environmental and socio-economic implications of existing and up-coming MRE projects, Marine Scotland has established the ScotMER programme, working closely with stakeholders to map out the research gaps in scientific knowledge when assessing the environmental and socio-economic impacts of MRE developments in Scottish waters.

Seven specialist groups of key experts and stakeholders were created under the ScotMER programme, each focussing on particular impact receptors, including the Fish and Fisheries Specialist Receptor Group (FFSRG). Similar to the other groups, the FFSRG has produced an "Evidence Map" that outlines and prioritises knowledge gaps in fish ecology and fisheries. However, there is a need to review current research on fish and fisheries interactions with offshore renewable developments to update this evidence map, and inform future strategic research projects.

In order to facilitate this process, this report provides a review of recent research undertaken in the UK and internationally of relevance to the assessment of potential impacts of MRE projects on fish and fisheries and makes recommendations with regards to future research. Whilst the report has been structured to align with the current contents of ScotMER's fish and fisheries evidence map, its scope is aimed at addressing evidence gaps on a UK-wide basis.

In this context it is important to note that whilst an evidence map equivalent to that produced under the ScotMER programme for Scotland is not currently available for the rest of the UK, the broad evidence gaps categories identified in ScotMER's fish and fisheries evidence map are also of relevance in a UK context. The Crown Estate has contributed to this review by funding the UK-wide elements to inform its Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme.



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