From plate to plug: The impact of offshore renewables on European fisheries and the role of marine spatial planning
Offshore renewables (OR), such as offshore wind farms, are a key pillar to address increasing energy demands and the global transition to a carbon-free power sector. The transition to ever more occupied marine spaces, often facilitated by marine spatial planning (MSP), increases the conflict potential with free ranging marine sectors such as fisheries. Here, we quantified for the first time the direct impact of current and future OR development on fisheries across European seas. We defined direct impact as the average annual fishing effort (h) overlapping with OR planning sites and applied an ensemble approach by deploying and harmonising various fisheries data to optimise spatial coverage for the European seas. The North Sea region will remain the centre of OR development for a long time, but a substantial increase of conflict potential between these sectors will also occur in other European sea basins after 2025. Across all sea basins, fishing fleets deploying bottom contacting gears targeting flatfish and crustaceans are and will be affected the most by the already constructed and planned OR. Our results provide a solid basis towards an understanding of the socio-economic effects of OR development on European fisheries. We argue that European MSP processes need to adopt common strategies to produce standardised and harmonised socio-economic data to understand implications of OR on free-ranging marine activities such as fisheries.