BRIDLINGTON’S fishermen are facing the biggest threat to their future and that of the town as the country’s top shellfish landings port.
They say their livelihoods and the future of Bridlington as a fishing port could be destroyed by the growing number of offshore developments in and around their prime fishing areas.
At a meeting last Friday evening they reluctantly agreed – by a majority decision – to accept compensation for moving their lobster and grab fishing gear from the heart of their prime fishing site to allow windfarm developer Dong Energy to carry out survey work.
Dong Energy wants to build a 35 square kilometre wind farm, Westermost Rough, in the sea four miles off Hornsea, in the middle of their prime potting grounds.
Previous offers of compensation for the fishermen operating around 40 vessels from Bridlington to move their gear out of the site during survey work, had been rejected.
After last Friday’s decision, Steve Cowan, 54, chairman of the Bridlington and Flamborough Fisherman’s Association, said: “It was a split vote, and some are not happy, but we went with the majority.
“If we don’t accept compensation terms now then this will drag on into the spring, which is the prime crabbing period.
“We will start moving our gear to other areas this week. Depending on the weather the survey is expected to take between nine and 17 days.”
It is understood the company has previously offered each vessel a £2,000 sum plus £50 a day during the survey period by way of compensation, which was rejected.
Exact details of the package the fishermen have now accepted are not known.
George Traves MBE, chairman of Bridlington Harbour Commissioners, and former chairman of the Fishermen’s Association and a prominent figure in local maritime matters, was selected by Dong Energy to liaise between the fishermen and the company.
Talks between the two have been on-going for around three years.
The survey is ahead of Dong Energy’s hopes of developing the wind farm, which Mr Cowan and other fishermen fear could be another nail in the coffin for Bridlington’s port.
“If it goes ahead, this windfarm will be in Bridlington’s prime site, one of the best in the UK, even Europe.
“If it is lost it will be a great blow to our fishing heritage.”
But Dong Energy’s plans are not the only problem.
The development of the Humber Gateway wind farm off the mouth of the Humber will also be in one of their prime fishing areas.
“Oil, gas, wind and even salt caverns and no-take zones are making our fishing grounds smaller and smaller, they are slowly strangling us,” said Mr Cowan, who explained the issue was not really about money.
“Once that windfarm off Hornsea is built, I believe that area of sea will be closed to us.
“Once it is built there is no going back,” said Mr Cowan.
Fellow Bridlington fisherman, Tony Pockley, who has been fishing the area for 35 years said building the windfarm would cause “unknown damage” to the fishery and the fleet which relied on crabs and lobsters.
“It could mean Bridlington as a port would cease to exist.
“It is not just the size of the windfarm, it is the transit routes and the process of building, all this has to be undertaken through our grounds which is going to cause unknown damage,” he said.
Subject to a successful planning application, grid connection and other detailed planning issues, Westermost Rough could be up and running by 2014 with between 35 to 80 turbines generating enough energy to power 150,000 homes.