Mr Matthew Ashley
School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)
Current PhD research:
‘The effects of implementing no take marine protected areas around offshore wind farms’
Keywords: Offshore windfarms, fisheries, habitat, socio economic impacts
Funding body: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Duration: October 2009 – October 2012
This project aims to assess the feasibility of utilising offshore windfarms (OWFs) as marine protected areas (MPAs). The research will focus on the economic and social issues associated with windfarms alongside the environmental issues. This should lead to a balanced evaluation of the true impact of marine renewables development. In particular we will focus on whether the areas used for offshore windfarms are de facto MPAs. Fishing is generally allowed in these areas however turbines can hinder the use of certain fishing gears (e.g. trawls and dredges). The question then is what would be the short - and long-term consequences of closing such areas to all forms of fishing? One school of thought is that the areas provide a conservation opportunity (particularly in light of the new Marine and Coastal Access Act which highlights the need for marine conservation zones). The areas may allow the creation of a refuge from fishing, allowing new habitats to form and allow fish biomass to build up which may ultimately benefit the fisheries. However these areas (particularly Round 3 sites) will be large and the impacts on existing habitats and fisheries could be considerable. Fishing effort would be displaced to smaller fishing grounds hence increased competition and local overuse of resources.
The key objectives are:
1. To identify the effects of offshore windfarms on habitats and populations
This will involve conducting assessments of habitat and population changes in an area as a result of OWF construction.
2. Identify how OWF impact fisheries
We will combine the analysis of fish landings and effort data from OWF regions with analysis of changes in fishing locations, tactics and incomes to examine the effect of OWF development on fisheries. Questionnaire and interview techniques will be used to gain fisher’s experience of the socio economic impacts of round one sites and the possible impacts of round two and three sites.
3. Assess if establishing MPAs around offshore windfarms help the UK meet conservation and fisheries management goals
Quantify the perceptions and attitudes of fishermen and other stakeholders towards OWF and the concept of utilizing OWFs as NTZs. In combination with the findings from analysis of habitat change in OWF, effects on fish populations and socio-economic impact to fisheries, this question aims to establish a holistic study of the potential of OWF as no take marine protected areas.