"Renewables yes, but without destroying the coastline": the rebellion of Galician fishermen against offshore wind

“This is a ‘take off you so that I can put on'”. Reflection It is from Torcuato Teixeira, spokesperson for the Platform in Defense of Fisheries and Ecosystems, and it captures well the feeling with which Galician, Asturian and northern Portuguese sailors view the expansion of wind power offshore along the coasts where they have been fishing for decades. His is not an amendment to the totality for wind turbines, qualify; but rather the demand that they be installed without “destroying the coastline.”

They are claiming it in the media. And in the street.

The clash between fishing and wind. They have mobilized in A Coruñathey plan to do it in Oviedo and they already claim The resignation by Minister Teresa Ribera and an interview with Pedro Sánchez. Fishermen and ecologists have begun to take to the streets coordinated by the “Eólica Así Non” platform to demand that the Government withdraw the Maritime Space Management Plan (POEM) for the North Atlantic demarcation, which opens to offshore wind about 2,350 square kilometers (km2) distributed along the Galician Cantabrian coast. The reason: they fear that it could “put an end to the most thriving fishing sector in Spain and Europe”.

And what is the reason? The fear that wind turbine farms will damage marine ecosystems and harm fishing, the region’s great economic engine. “Renewables yes, but not in this way, destroying the coastline. We don’t want offshore wind because it will be destructive for the artisanal and coastal fishing sector,” claims to Europa Press the largest patron of Cangas, Javier Costa.

And it does so using various arguments. First, the effect that wind turbines can have on employment. Second —and this is one of the great keys to the conflict— that the fishermen miss reports that clarify the exact impact that wind power would have on the fauna of the coast. “There are no environmental impact studies, there is no type of study of what can happen or the secondary effects that can occur,” underlines.

The Portuguese “mirror”. Their great fear is to end up reliving what, the fishermen say, has already happened to their neighbors in the north of Portugal. There, in Viana do Castelo, three wind turbines located 20 kilometers from the coast have been erected since 2020, a park offshore pioneer which, however, has left a bad taste in the mouths of the sailors who fish in the area. “They installed the windmills three years ago and since then the fish have disappeared a mile around the park.” explains Portela Rosafrom the Portuguese fishermen’s organization, to InfoLibre.

Teixeira recalls that in the area in which the POEM focuses, pelagic species such as anchovies, sardines or mackerel are fished, “very sensitive”, and insists on the lack of studies: “Auctioning the sea to install mills without having the minimum information about its impact is nonsense.” Experts manage data on parks offshore located in northern Europe, but their characteristics, different from those found on the Cantabrian coast, would make it difficult to draw conclusions.

Why mobilize now? For the context. And the calendar. The 2023 political agenda contemplates two important electoral appointments, the first already in May and the second, predictably, at the end of the year. Against this backdrop a few weeks ago the Council of Ministers gave the green light to the management plans of the five marine demarcations with the purpose —claims the Executive— of “guaranteeing the sustainability of human activities at sea”.

The POEMs allow offshore wind power in four polygons on the Galician Cantabrian coast and another located further south, opposite the mouth of the Miño. Specifically, on the Galician coast and the Bay of Biscay, up to eight possible locations for marine parks totaling almost 2,700 km2 are contemplated: five in Galicia, distributed mainly around A Coruña and Lugo; and another three off the Asturian coast.

The executive’s arguments. At the end of February, when it announced the approval of the POEMs, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition insisted that its goal is to facilitate “optimal use of the maritime space.” As? “Reducing conflicts and promoting coexistence and synergies”, they stressed from the department by Teresa Ribera, who recalls that these are planning instruments that are renewed every six years. From the Executive remember In addition, the process to delimit the 19 areas reserved for wind power lasted four years in an attempt, precisely, to achieve the maximum consensus.

His detractors appreciate, however, “fringes that can be pulled” and are already considering appealing the decree to the Supreme Court for the decree of its approval. “This is the starting signal in the fight that we will undertake against the Government. We are going to go to the end. This supposes an attack on our way of life and the entire ecosystem and we cannot sit idly by”, emphasizes Adolfo García MárquezAsturian sailor and vice president of the platform.

Cover image: WindFloat Atlantic

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Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a freelance writer working on news website. He contributes to Our Blog and more. Wise also works in higher ed sustainability and previously in stream restoration. He loves running, trees and hanging out with her family.

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