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Offshore wind farm work could ignite ‘creel wars’ in Moray Firth

Buckie fisherman Lee Brown fears he could lose up to £40,000 over the next three years.
Buckie fisherman Lee Brown fears he could lose up to £40,000 over the next three years.

A fisherman has warned “creel wars” could be sparked in the Moray Firth amid claims a massive wind farm will dramatically reduce catching grounds.

Buckie-based Lee Brown has been landing mackerel, squid and shellfish from off the coast of Spey Bay and Kingston for 20 years.

But now he faces losing up to £40,000 over the next three years unless he moves into other areas, which he worries will cause conflict among other trawlermen.

Work on £2.6billion windfarm to begin next year, creating 900 new jobs

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) are building 84 turbines about eight miles east from Caithness as part of the £2.6billion Beatrice development.

As part of the project, engineers will dig an underwater trench to lay a power cable that will come ashore near Portgordon.

Mr Brown, skipper of the Lily, fears that unless he receives compensation from SSE he could be forced to stray into contested waters with other fishermen or walk away from the industry he has made his livelihood.

He said: “There has been meetings up and down the coast with fishermen about the compensation and what they are going to do about going up against the bigger boats.

“I don’t want to go up against the big trawlers. They’re bigger, larger and more powerful than what I’ve got. I understand they need to make a living as much as I do too though.

“I’ve already had disagreements with fishermen which resulted in my creels being towed away. It could all end up in carnage. We could be looking at creel wars.”

Mr Brown has been warned to stay clear of the Portgordon coast while work is being done – meaning he will only have two months worth of mackerel catches to rely on.

The fisherman received initial compensation from SSE for preparatory works but will not receive anything during the next three years of work, which could cost him up to £40,000.

Last night John Cox, co-vice chairman of the Moray Firth Inshore Fisherman’s Association called for a “radical shake-up” of fisheries management to end disagreements between small and large operators.

Mr Cox said: “I’m aware that due to cable works that fishermen have been displaced from certain grounds, which will lead to them going into other grounds and being in more competition with others.

“There seems to be a lack of support for some form of compensation. Only some people have been looked after.

“What we’re seeing is pressure coming from two directions onto the fishermen – not just from offshore wind farms but from ship-to-ship oil transfers.

“There’s a lot more displacement in the Moray Firth now and a lot more activity from the larger boats fishing for squid.”

Mr Brown warned that without financial support his ambition to introduce “fresh blood” to life on the waves could be put in jeopardy.

He added: “It’s a massive industry. Buckie was built on the fishing industry, all the villages along the coast are the same.

“I started up my own company and wanted to train up a deck-hand as an apprentice to help young people into the industry. That’ll be a lot harder without compensation for my loss of earnings.”

A spokeswoman for SSE said: “Beatrice Offshore Wind Limited has been liaising with local fishermen throughout the development of the Beatrice offshore wind farm project.

“We have been continuing to liaise with the fishermen who work in and around the wind farm and export cable route construction areas to reach agreements on cooperation that are fair to all parties.”

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