WDC are supportive of efforts to reduce climate impacts and move away from the use of fossil fuels. However, the decision by Scottish Ministers today to consent these four offshore wind farms off the Forth and Tay on the east coast of Scotland will drive another nail in the coffin of the local harbour seal population.
The rapidly declining harbour seal population at the Firth of Tay & Eden Estuary SAC is predicted to become locally extinct in less than 10 years. They are part of a bigger national population whose status is ‘Unfavourable – Inadequate’. The dramatic decline of this population and the failure of the Scottish Government to maintain the population at favourable conservation status is a continuing breach of European environmental legislation. The Scottish Government does not have a clear strategy to reverse this decline. Yet it has now consented four wind farm developments that are likely to speed up this decline towards extinction with the increased use of vessels with ducted propellers in the region, a local hot spot for seal deaths by propeller cuts.
It has been calculated that there will also be an impact on the Moray Firth bottlenose dolphin population during the construction period, with an assumed recovery of the population over a 25 year modelled period. However, there is no certainty that the effects of construction over a period of five years on the bottlenose dolphin population can be recovered.
The consents are granted subject to conditions which are aimed to mitigate and monitor a range of potential impacts to marine mammals, as well as birds and other environmental considerations. However, robust mitigation measures look unlikely as government mitigation policy on two key impacts, both corkscrew injuries for seals and pile driving for all marine mammals, is weak and inadequate.
Only sufficient monitoring will assist in addressing current gaps in knowledge of impacts, documenting any population declines and ultimately determining whether mitigation measures are effective.
Once completed, the developments in the Forth and Tay region will consist of Neart Na Gaoithe (up to 75 turbines), Inch Cape Offshore Limited (110 turbines), Seagreen Alpha and Seagreen Bravo (up to 150 turbines combined).
The Forth and Tay offshore wind farm consents are available at https://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/marine/Licensing/marine/scoping