I am acutely aware of the concerns of fishers and fishing representatives in relation to potential impacts on fishing grounds and livelihoods as a result of Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) developments.
I can confirm that my Department has worked constructively throughout the past year with officials in the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage which has led the establishment of the Seafood/ORE working group. This group will facilitate discussions on matters arising from the interaction of the seafood and offshore renewable energy industries, to promote and share best practice, and to encourage liaison with other sectors in the marine environment. Its initial aim will be to agree a communications protocol between these two strategically important maritime sectors.
I have encouraged early engagement in this process and officials from all three Departments participated in a seafood sector information session, which was held online on 22 July 2021, in order to inform seafood stakeholders of the intentions of the Departments and outline the proposed objectives of the working group. This information session was well attended by fishing representatives.
It is important that we continue to find a pathway that recognises the value that our ocean territory has for our economy and that balances this with how we harness its natural resources. Food Vision 2030, the agri-food sector strategy adopted as government policy, calls for greater recognition, respect and support for primary producers for their key societal role in addressing our climate and biodiversity emergency. It is essential that the needs and experiences of fishers are factored into the scoping, planning and designing of any offshore renewable energy projects.
I am pleased that the Chairperson of the Seafood/ORE working group was recently appointed and I am assured that the inception meeting of this group, which will include fishing industry representation, will be held at the earliest available opportunity. I encourage effective engagement and cooperation between the Departments, Agencies and State Bodies involved and with the seafood and ORE industries in order to fully understand potential impacts, both positive and negative, co-existence opportunities and displacement considerations, and guide any potential mitigation responses as appropriate.