Fishermen threaten to ‘stop fishing’, take legal action over massive block of offshore wind farms

Insist they are “not against renewable energies” but there must be proportion

Fishing boat owners in the north are threatening to stop fishing, and file injunctions with Europe, over the proposed creation of a massive block of offshore wind farms, which they have claimed will turn rich fishing areas into comparative deserts.

The situation is that six new windfarms are planned for the areas off Sines, Ericeira, Figueira da Foz, Leixões and Viana do Castelo, where a small offshore wind farm has been operating since 2020, with three turbines that have already produced clean energy to serve the equivalent of 60,000 people, but have also shown fishermen how fish have effectively ‘vanished’ from the waters.

Earlier this year, 15 associations went public with the warning that if two wind farms are sanctioned off Viana do Castelo (as is the plan), authorities may as well issue “a death certificate for fishing”, as all the fish – on which hundreds of boats/ families and local businesses depend – will disappear.

In the summer, pressure over the siting of a wind farm off Matosinhos (Leixões) saw an agreement to take the turbines another 35 kms ‘out to sea’ (ie westwards). This could be a solution for the fishing community of Viana. What they stress is that unless the plan changes radically in their favour, they will not only ‘down tools’ and stop fishing, they will take legal action through the European courts.

Manuel Marques, president of the northern fishermen’s association, has told journalists, this “war will go on as far as it takes. If we have to stop we will – even before the turbines are installed. If these turbines are Portugal’s plan, why should the fishermen have to pay for it?” he queried on the sidelines of the 2nd Small-scale Fishing Congress in Vila Praia do Ancora. 

He explained that the Plan of Allocation for the Exploitation of Offshore Renewable Energies (PAER), which is under public consultation until mid-December, could jeopardise more than 6,000 vessels.

Marques also said that if the wind farms occupy the 5% of the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) set aside for fishing, it would mean “an area larger than the Azores and Madeira combined”, the equivalent of “300,000 football pitches”.

Francisco Portela Rosa, representing VianaPesca, is just as committed, explaining that the opposition of “all the fishing associations in the north is total” to this project in its current form: “There is only one solution, to block the project, to go to the European court and file an injunction.” 

We are not going to get into debates with the government“, he said, suggesting this is something that has been tried previously with lacklustre results.

Source: LUSA/ SIC Notícias

Portugal Resident