Tom Brock: Protect wildlife and create green energy

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AS a campaigning conservation charity dedicated to the protection and conservation of marine wildlife and the marine environment, the Scottish Seabird Centre has an extensive track record of action on issues that threaten Scotland’s amazing wildlife and its internationally important natural environment.

Climate change is having a very damaging impact on our seabird populations and this needs to be addressed. We therefore understand, and are fully supportive of, the need to diversify Scotland’s energy production and to focus efforts on renewable energy. The recently announced four new offshore wind farms for Scotland, on the Firth of Tay and Firth of Forth will help to achieve this. We are in favour of efforts which promote and deliver sustainability and benefits to the environment, wildlife, local communities and the economy around Scotland’s coastline. However these developments must be constructed and operated in a way which minimises any risk to wildlife.

As a conservation charity, we want to make sure that the risks to wildlife are addressed from the outset of this significant shift towards renewable energy production. The most obvious concern for us at the Scottish Seabird Centre is the risk of seabirds striking the blades of the turbines. The risks vary depending on various factors including the height above water that different species fly at. Considerate planning and construction can reduce the risk of this by careful positioning of the turbine height to reflect the specific bird populations at the locations concerned.

These new wind farms will be within easy reach of birds from neighbouring world famous seabird breeding colonies including the Isle of May National Nature Reserve and the world’s largest single island gannet colony (the Bass Rock). Potentially many species could be affected including our much-loved puffins.

We urge the developers and the Scottish Government to embrace any opportunity to protect our marine wildlife, working with us and other conservation charities to help achieve the best possible solutions for all. When these wind farms are planned, constructed and operated, it must be done in a way which achieves maximum mitigation of the effect on Scotland’s wildlife. It is special and we must look after it for future generations. In addition, wildlife tourism is now crucial to the tourism industry locally and nationally.

We intend to work constructively throughout the process with the developers and the Scottish Government so that we achieve a development which balances environmental, economic, energy and climate change considerations.

• Tom Brock, is chief executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre