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.

This document is part of a collection

Evidence Gap FF.03: Fisheries stakeholders integration and participation process

Review of current knowledge

The early stages of marine planning, whether integrated or sectoral, are considered crucial to prevent conflict with other activities, and particularly with fisheries (Dupont et al 2020). Ensuring that appropriate fisheries stakeholder participation takes place as part of the development process of MRE projects, is of critical importance to facilitate co-existence between the two sectors. The implementation of timely and effective communication, including engagement, consultation, coordination and information exchange, is widely acknowledged as being essential in promoting co-existence (Moura et al 2015, FLOWW 2014, BOEM 2020).

To facilitate the participation of fisheries stakeholders, however, consideration needs to be given to the arrangements that fishermen may need to engage in consultation. In many cases fishermen are based in remote locations and may need to take time off fishing to attend meetings. In addition, not all fishermen are part of local, regional or national fisheries organisations. Therefore, the interests of some fishermen may not be represented in certain consultation forums.

In the UK, early discussion of fisheries and offshore energy related matters is often undertaken in the context of marine spatial planning (MSP). The benefit of MSP associated processes to facilitate the identification of potential conflicts between planned activities and fisheries has been demonstrated in practice both in the UK and abroad (Haggett et al 2020). For instance, outputs of participatory fisheries mapping work sponsored by the Scottish Government (ScotMap) have been used to inform marine policy development in Scotland (see Kafas et al 2017). In addition, the recently developed Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scotland, includes reference to specific feedback from the fishing industry with regard to areas within Development Plan Options (DPOs) which could facilitate co-existence with fishing (The Scottish Government 2020a).

Similar approaches to participation and integration of fisheries stakeholders' views at an early stage in the planning process have also proved effective in the United States (Hagget et al 2020, Pol and Ford 2020).

In the UK, in addition to consultation as part of MSP, liaison between fisheries stakeholders and developers at a strategic level is further facilitated by the Fisheries Liaison with Offshore Wind and Wet Renewables Group (FLOWW), established in 2002. Guidance developed by this group sets out good practice with regard to liaison and communication and guides the identification of potential effects and co-existence opportunities (FLOWW 2014, FLOWW 2015).

The establishment of Commercial Fisheries Working Groups (CFWG) has also played an important role in facilitating engagement between developers and fisheries stakeholders for many offshore wind farm projects across the UK.

In Scotland, this has been undertaken on a regional basis through the establishment of the Forth and Tay CFWG and the Moray Firth CFWG. For developers with projects in these two regions, participation in the relevant CFWG has generally been a requirement under consent conditions.

In the rest of the UK, participation in or establishment of CFWGs is not a standard requirement as part of individual project's licence conditions. In some instances, however, developers have voluntarily set up CFWGs to facilitate engagement with local fishermen. This has been undertaken on a project specific basis or to cover various projects located within a given region.

Whilst CFWGs may be a useful as tool to facilitate engagement with fisheries stakeholders, their need and format should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to participation in relevant industry groups and as part of MSP, at project specific level, fisheries stakeholder engagement is facilitated as part of the planning application consultation process. Specific guidance on the requirements of the consultation process with fisheries stakeholders at this stage is however currently lacking, and therefore, the level of consultation undertaken and overall fisheries stakeholders' consultation strategy adopted by different projects may vary significantly. The establishment of clear guidelines on this topic may help the implementation of a consistent consultation framework across projects, reduce the potential for conflicts to arise and manage stakeholders' expectations from an early stage.

Following development consent, on-going engagement with fisheries stakeholders is facilitated through the implementation of Fisheries Liaison and Co-existence Plans (FLCP) (known as Fisheries Management and Mitigation Strategies (FMMSs) in Scotland).

At present, the development and implementation of FLCPs/FMMSs is normally included as a condition to consent for offshore wind farm projects across the UK. These documents outline the developers' approach to liaison with the fishing industry and the measures proposed to minimise and mitigate interference to fishing. FLCPs/FMMSs are developed with reference to relevant FLOWW guidance, with consideration of feedback from fisheries stakeholders and require approval by the regulator. FLCPs/FMMSs are also aimed at clearly identifying the role and responsibilities, in respect of fisheries related matters, of developers, Fisheries Liaison Officers (FLOs) and other relevant liaison roles (i.e. Offshore Fisheries Liaison Officers (OFLOs) and Fishing Industry Representatives (FIRs)) (FLOWW 2014, FLOWW 2015).

Guidance specific to the development of FLCPs/FMMSs is currently being developed by Marine Scotland (Draft Guidance on Producing a Fisheries Management and Mitigation Strategy ("FMMS") (Marine Scotland Science (draft) 2020). In addition, existing FLOWW guidance (FLOWW 2014, FLOWW 2015) is currently under review. These new guidelines will further assist in the production of future project-specific FLCPs/FMMSs.

Next steps in research

As described above, collaborative planning and appropriate engagement and communication with the fishing industry is key to reduce potential conflict and facilitate co-existence. Engagement and consultation with fisheries stakeholders are encouraged and facilitated at the various stages of MRE development in the UK, from early planning throughout the operational phase of the projects. There is a lack of detailed guidance, however, on the level of engagement and approach to consultation with the various fisheries stakeholders which needs to be implemented by individual projects during the planning application process.

Engagement with fisheries stakeholders at a strategic level (i.e. facilitated by FLOWW or other suitable industry wide forums) to discuss perceived shortfalls in the current consultation process with regard to integration and participation, as well as the need to develop specific guidelines on this matter, if appropriate, is strongly recommended.



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