Article initially published in the Marine Times in Ireland early November 2023.
Member of LIFE platform, the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO) has raised significant concerns over the South Coast Renewable Energy DMAP in a public consultation held this month. In a submission to the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC), IIMRO has outlined a number of issues with the current process to develop offshore renewable energy and it’s potential significant impacts on island and coastal communities.
The lack of information on the scale of proposed new energy installations, the very real potential to displace fisheries as well as the unknown impacts on the marine environment are chief amongst the concerns raised. The lack of specifics on their scale, design and locations of affiliated infrastructure remain a significant cause of unease.
Security of tenure and recognition of customary rights for small scale fisheries is crucial for fisheries governance and resource management and is underscored by the FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small Scale Fisheries. Including; “States, in accordance with their legislation, should ensure that small-scale fishers, fish workers and their communities have secure, equitable, and socially and culturally appropriate tenure rights to fishery resources (marine and inland) and small-scale fishing areas and adjacent land, with a special attention paid to women with respect to tenure rights.” This recognition of tenure is currently missing from current discussions and needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.
IIMRO reiterated the diversity of the fishing community; from small traditional vessels with a single crew, fishing seasonally close to shore, to large industrial ocean-going vessels fishing across international boundaries and the need for governance structures to recognise and accommodate this diversity.
86% of vessels in Ireland are small-scale; the under 12 meter boats which support families around the coast. This hugely important fleet segment is also the least visible, with small boats not having VMS or AIS transmitters. This has led to significant gaps in the data on which models of fishing activity are developed and on which decisions on installation locations are based. Ireland needs to move beyond awareness of the lack of this essential information, to providing solutions that are practical and useful for fishers.
IIMRO’s concerns reflect a broader sentiment among marine stakeholders about the rapid development of offshore renewable energy without having appropriate governance and ownership models in place. We are hopeful that these constructive recommendations will be at the forefront of energy policy and implementation. IIMRO’s submission will be available on the DECC website in due course.