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RSPB Express Major Concern

…over consent for two offshore wind farms in Moray Firth

Scottish Ministers have today granted consent for two major offshore windfarms in the Moray Firth. RSPB Scotland fully supports the development of offshore wind in Scotland but has major concerns about the impact these two huge windfarms could have on Scotland’s internationally important seabird populations.

More renewable energy, including from offshore windfarms, is needed to help counter the effects of climate change which is already threatening wildlife and people in Scotland and across the world. However, it is important that developments are well sited at a scale that avoids harming our most important wildlife. Scotland hosts a third of all the EU’s breeding seabirds so we have an international responsibility to look after this fantastic natural resource. Government, therefore has a responsibility to ensure great care is taken so that offshore wind can be developed in a way that delivers much needed renewable energy and also avoids significant harm to our seabirds.

RSPB Scotland have been working very closely with the offshore wind developers and with Scottish Government to help advise how to accommodate these offshore windfarms in this sensitive location. RSPB Scotland believes that the scale of development granted consent today represents just too great a threat to Scotland’s wildlife, with turbine collisions and displacement from feeding grounds being key risks. Some seabird populations in this area are already under massive pressure and in dramatic decline. These developments could tip them even further over the edge and in some cases exacerbate the already dramatic population declines we are seeing nationally. Whilst it is unclear to what extent these protected populations of seabirds will be impacted we do know that the following species are most at risk: puffin, gannet, kittiwake, herring gulls and great black-backed gulls.

RSPB Scotland has previously encouraged a reduction in the scale of development in the Moray Firth that would be less likely to significantly harm important seabird populations in the Moray Firth.

Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland, said: “It is disappointing Scottish Ministers have decided to take such a risk with Scotland’s internationally important populations of seabirds. We will be looking closely at the details of the consent over the next few days but we believe a smaller development could have provided very significant amounts of renewable energy with much less risk to marine wildlife. It is essential that the site is monitored closely and full details of the impact on marine wildlife is made publicly available. A proportion of money invested in offshore development must be invested into our marine natural environment, which should include environmental monitoring and action, to help make it more resilient to climate change and other human activities. Furthermore, it is now more important than ever that Scottish Ministers rapidly progress a network of marine protected areas to help deliver protection for Scotland’s seabirds and we will now be pressing harder on this issue to get them designated.”

4th July 2014