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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A total of 163 peer reviewed and grey literature publications were reviewed to help inform this report. These were primarily identified via internet search engines, using words included in the titles of the ScotMER fish and fisheries evidence gaps combined with the terms "marine renewable energy", "offshore wind farm", "fish" and "fisheries" as appropriate.

In parallel, targeted consultation via questionnaires was undertaken with a range of UK and international stakeholders including research institutions and universities, fisheries stakeholders, nature conservation organisations, developers and research and industry groups. This consultation was aimed at identifying recent, on-going and/or planned research which may be of relevance to the ScotMER's fish and fisheries evidence gaps. In addition, the questionnaires provided an opportunity for consultees to identify any additional evidence gaps which they felt should be given consideration in the future. The consultation questionnaire used for the targeted consultation exercise in support of this report is provided in Appendix 01 for reference.

A total of 15 completed questionnaires were returned. A summary of the profiles of the organisations which responded to the consultation and an indication of their geographical location is provided in Table 2.

Table 2 Consultees' Summary
Consultee No. of responses Location
Offshore Wind Developers 5 Scottish, UK-wide and international projects
Universities 2 Wales and Scotland
Other research institutions 1 Scotland
Fisheries federations/associations 1 England and Wales
Licensing bodies/government departments and agencies 4 England, Wales and Northern Ireland
SNCBs and Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) 2 England

Research papers and other relevant publications identified by consultees in the questionnaires have been referenced within the review of current knowledge on the evidence gaps as appropriate. In addition, reference has been made to high level information provided by consultees in relation to standard monitoring practices and other activities that they undertake which may provide useful data and information to address some of the existing evidence gaps.

As part of their consultation responses, some consultees, including various developers, fisheries organisations and research institutions, also provided feedback on additional aspects that they feel need to be addressed. Whilst these may not be directly addressed in this literature review, they should be given consideration in future strategic evidence gap mapping and/or research. These were the following:

  • Fishing activity by under 15 m vessels engaged in lobster and whelk fisheries;
  • Displacement of activity for the whole UK fleet;
  • Guidance on how to improve relationships with fishermen and involve them in the consultation process at an early stage;
  • Engagement with the EU fishing industry post-Brexit;
  • Strategic approaches to larval surveys (in relation to the collection of evidence on fish spawning);
  • The appropriate scale at which the data and knowledge are gathered needs to be addressed;
  • The way that monitoring of effects is undertaken should be more targeted to address strategic and cumulative questions, rather than be set within the context of EIAs. In addition, there should be a stronger focus on ecosystem effects rather than on specific receptors;
  • The current basis for fishing in the vicinity of cables and the legal protection of cables against willful or culpable negligence lacks clarity and is hindering the potential for co-existence. There is a risk that without intervention to provide a clearer legal basis for fishing in the vicinity of cables or arrangements for the appropriate management of liabilities, that changes in insurance provision will result in the future de-facto exclusion of fishing activities. Research is needed to review the current legal framework applying to fisheries-cable interactions, legal practice and case law, insurance market views, explore models for the future management of liabilities and make recommendations based on findings.
  • Investigations on alternative fishing methods and potential development of new gear types that may be less damaging to the marine environment and more suited to operating inside the boundaries of offshore wind farms; and
  • Additional research and guidance in relation to cable burial, burial techniques and target depth and facilitation of co-existence with other marine users. The development of an agreed approach on data presentation relating to "as laid" cables for other marine users would also be useful.



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