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Fishermen and wind farms must learn to coexist, says MEP

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Fishermen and wind farms must learn to coexist, says MEP
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Fishermen and wind farms must learn to coexist, says one MEP, as turbines at sea begin to increase as part of the European Union's aim to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Peter van Dalen MEP, the vice-chairman of the European Parliament's fisheries committee, wants to find ways for the two parties to work together, telling Euronews that it should be possible for the two to live in harmony.

"Especially in the North Sea we have a lot of marine protected areas and I think we should investigate to build windmills in those marine protected areas. That is one," van Dalen explained.

"Two, in existing wind parks we should investigate the possibility of fishing there. That is difficult I know, there are a lot of questions and insurance questions when you fish between windmills, but we should investigate that too."

Van Dalen's words come as the bloc looks to expand its capacity of clean energy production, meaning more and more wind turbines are emerging in EU waters.

But this industrial boom is making fishermen unhappy, as access to offshore wind farms is often forbidden, reducing fishing areas as a result.

In the North Sea, the overlap between these two areas is growing every year, according to Emiel Brouckaert the director of Rederscentrale - an organisation representing ship owners.

"In order to have sustainable fishing, generally speaking, we need as much space as possible because fishing is a hunt, in fact," Brouckaert told Euronews. "We need to find the most sustainable areas to be able to fish and certainly, the development of wind turbines at sea takes up a lot of space and it's not positive for us."

To achieve the bloc's 2050 target, the Commission wants 30 per cent of electricity production to come from offshore wind turbines.

Fishermen say, however, that this is just another limitation to add to the list of spaces they share with cargo ships, as well as protected areas.

But according to Sarah Vanden Eede, an Oceans & Fisheries Policy Officer from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Belgium, it is just a matter of sharing space.

"Fisheries is one of many activities that is searching for space at sea, so there is room for fisheries, but there are so many activities now at sea we are trying to coordinate stuff inside marine spatial plans and those plans should actually be made in an ecosystem-based way, so in that sense fisheries are only one of the activities at sea for the moment, so it's a bit give and take there," Vanden Eede told Euronews.

For organisations focused on marine conservation, like the WWF, disrupting protected areas is out of the question. Instead, they want the EU to support the development of new wind farm technologies.

"I think that the European Union should really support research and development projects, especially on solutions that are a bit innovative," Alexandre Cornet from WWF Europe told Euronews.

"This is a sector that is often said to be mature, but there are still many technologies that are being developed, technologies that can reduce impacts, that can also allow projects to be moved further out to sea, for example. And there the support of European funds can really bring something new."

According to the Parliament, there are currently 110 wind farms in European waters, representing 5,000 wind turbines.