Saturday 27 December 2014

Objections: Fears raised over impact on marine life and fishing areas

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

Published 10/03/2014 | 02:30

WAVE energy may be seen by many as a clean, green, "no-brainer" way of generating electricity.

But as well as having to overcome the difficulties of financing and developing viable technology, wave power will also have to surmount significant environmental and maritime industry concerns.

The potential impacts on ocean habitats, as well as fishing and spawning grounds, are among the chief concerns for environmentalists and the fishing industry.

An Taisce, the national trust, has voiced concerns about wave energy converters in the past, saying there are "gaps in the knowledge of the impacts" of such projects.

It is concerned that there is simply not enough research data to gauge the potential impact on marine mammals, such as dolphins, porpoises and whales, which are regular visitors to our waters.

These, along with basking sharks, would be at risk of physical injury from the structures, it said in a submission on converters planned for the north Mayo coast.

It said the laying of cabling to get the power back to shore would most likely result in the creation of an artificial reef, which would benefit some species and disadvantage others.

A Scottish National Trust impact monitoring report also noted that noise generated by the construction of energy converters had caused basking sharks to experience chronic stress.

The identification of prime wave energy sites in traditional fishing areas has been a cause of concern for fishermen in Scotland, where wave energy plans are more advanced. The Federation of Irish Fishermen says it has no objection to ocean energy projects, provided they do not impact on fishing and spawning grounds.

Its chairman, Sean O'Donoghue, told the Irish Independent: "We can't have a situation where our lucrative fishing grounds are either damaged or put out of bounds because of something like this."

He believes there are a number of locations where wave energy projects can be developed without impacting on fishing. But fishermen will only buy into those plans if they are consulted each step of the way.

"We certainly are not opposed to ocean energy, but we have made it very clear that if there are proposals they can't be right smack in the middle of fishing grounds," he said.

"All the interests will have to be taken into account. If that is done in a proper fashion, we see that we can coexist."

Irish Independent

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