Fleetwood's fishing future 'at risk' from wind farm plans

Fleetwood fishing vessel Image copyright Fleetwood Commercial Fishermen's Group
Image caption Fleetwood has just nine commercial vessels left

Fishing in a Lancashire port is in danger of "total collapse" because of plans to impose a fishing "exclusion zone", fishermen have claimed.

Danish firm Dong Energy plans to expand the Walney offshore wind farm next year and wants all fishing boats to avoid a "narrow strip" of the Irish Sea.

Fleetwood's fishermen staged a flotilla protest over the firm's compensation offer of £750 per vessel.

Dong Energy said it wanted to "reach a mutually acceptable arrangement".

'Bread and butter'

The firm said it was not an exclusion zone but a request to avoid a stretch of water up to 800m (0.5 mile) wide for four months to complete the expansion to the wind farm off Cumbria's coast.

Will Bamber, from Fleetwood Commercial Fishermen's Group which represents the skippers and vessel owners, said the strip is fished by all their vessels and makes up at least 80% of their fishing grounds.

He said they would agree to keep out of the area but the compensation offered was "far from acceptable".

Image copyright Chris James
Image caption The expanded Walney offshore wind farm will be one of the world's largest

"That is where we earn our bread and butter and we can't go anywhere else."

Mr Bamber said: "They're going to take it away from us... and we need compensating fairly for that."

Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith said it was "incredibly important the deal was in proportion to their loss" not just for the fishermen.

"It is their livelihoods but also for the town... fishing is part of Fleetwood's identity."

Dong Energy said it had reached agreement with around 100 fishermen operating from north west ports regarding work planned for the wind farm which will be one of the world's largest when completed.

It said compensation includes "appropriate disturbance payments for any potential loss of catch, or other costs".

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