Eric Murimi



IHE Delft Institute for Water Education

MSc. Environmental Science (Environmental Planning and


How has wind farm, oil
and gas energy generation influenced seafood production in the North Sea?


Is the integration of energy
generation and seafood production beneficial to the sustainability of food
production? There is a conflict of interest between these two industries which
share the same geographic area. According to (Uhre and Leknes, 2017) when two industries make
competing claims to exploit resources in the same geographic area, con?icts may
arise. This integration has an impact on the productivity and subsequent
sustainability of food production. Energy generation in this case includes wind
farms, oil and gas generation off shore, while food production refers to production
different types of sea life that human beings define as food including fish and

(Pomeroy, et al., 2016) discuss that, today, over 3
billion people worldwide rely on fish for at least 20% of their average per
capita intake of animal protein. In some states, fish comprises more than 50%
of dietary animal protein. They continue to point out that fishing is the
largest extractive use of wildlife in the world, and fisheries products are the
world’s most widely traded foods, with commerce dominated by the developing
countries. This shows that globally there is a demand for seafood hence there
is need to satisfy this demand.

Current situation

According to the “Policy Document
on the North Sea 2016 – 2021” Energy generation in the North Sea contributes to
“30% of the gas used in the Netherlands and more than 85% of the oil used in
the Netherlands and approximately 950MW from the wind farms” according to the
Policy report for Netherlands for 2016 to 2021. The aim of this review is to try
to fill in the knowledge gaps by comparing literature and statistics by examining
how energy generation from wind farms and oil and gas drilling interacts with seafood
production. Different literature from the ?elds of energy production, food
production, trade and using examples from ?sheries and energy sector.

According to the “status of
marine fish stocks” Of the 186 assessed stocks, around 40% come from the
North-East Atlantic and Baltic Seas, and the remaining 60% from the
Mediterranean and Black seas (although some tuna and tuna-like species have
stocks in both the North-East Atlantic and Mediterranean seas).

Literature review

The subject of the food
sustainability from the North Sea has been reviewed for overtime. However, the
subject area has some information gaps that are unexplored. This review tries
to find information to fill in this gaps using literature on the subject
carried out in other area. According to (Swartz, et al., 2010) Seafood consumption is on the
rise. The global per capita seafood consumption has been increasing steadily,
from an average of 9.9 kg in the 1960s to 16.7 kg (live weight equivalent) in
2006. This increased consumption of seafood can be linked to the population increase
that over the years has been on the rise in the North Atlantic countries and
the entire world. However, this increasing demand for seafood production has
been overtime impacted by various challenges due to the integration of the food
production industry with various industries. Industrial revolution brought rise
to generation of energy; sources including coal, wood and lately fossil fuels i.e.
oil and gas and the latest being wind energy. The demand for energy has come
with impacts on the marine life which in-turn has an impact on food production.
Industrial revolution brought rise to generation of energy; sources including
coal, wood and lately fossil fuels i.e. oil and gas and the latest being wind
energy. The demand for energy has come with impacts on the marine life which
in-turn has an impact on food production.

North Sea plays a major role in
the generation of energy of which 30% of gas used in the Netherlands comes from
the North Sea and over 85% of oil used in the Netherlands comes from the North
Sea. This exploration of oil and gas, which is 93% units of gas extraction and
7% units of oil have had notable impacts on the aquatic ecosystem which contribute
to the food production. As explained by (Mogaji, et al., 2018) the exploration of crude oil
has had debilitating effects on fisheries and its aquatic ecosystem. Various
studies showed the inadequate management gap and insensitivity to approach the
colossal damage of oil spill in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. It is
against this backdrop that arise many fragments of economic woes, suffering and
uprising in the region. The fate of freshwater fisheries and its aquatic
ecosystem, socio-cultural activities of the people, preservation and
sustainability of aquatic life, environmental resuscitation, and economic
diversity, among other relating factors in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria
remain bleak. However, there could be hope if stringent bioremediation policies
are implemented, which will involve monitoring, evaluation, and rehabilitation
of the affected region by all stakeholders.

This shows that there is an
interaction between energy generation and seafood production. This interaction has
an effect on the productivity of food generated from the sea. The petroleum
industry is required by law to conduct its activities in a manner conducive to
peaceful co-existence with the ?sheries (Act Relating to Petroleum Activities,
1–10). (Uhre and Leknes, 2017). The energy production sector
are required to generate energy and still ensure the sustainability of the
marine ecosystem which constitutes part of the food consumed in the world.

The strongest con?icts between
petroleum and ?sheries have been over the use of ocean space for seismic
exploration. (Olsen, et al., 2016). Development of the oil rigs
on sea takes up space that would have otherwise been used by fishermen. Given
that the oil rigs not only take up space at the drilling sites, the pipelines
to transport the products to land also take up space which reduces fishing
area. The reduction of the fishing area leads to reduced catch by the
fishermen. With reduced catch means the produce to the consumer is also
reduced. Other impacts may include oils spills during drilling or transport, underwater
noise among other impacts.

There are disagreements about the
environmental risks of petroleum development, that is, how to treat worst-case
scenarios such as large-scale oil spills, how to value ecological importance and
the importance of socioeconomic effects of petroleum developments Locally as
stated by (Olsen, Holen, Hoel,
Buhl-Mortensen and Røttingen, 2016). During the drilling of the
crude oil and gas, accidental spills do occur and the effects are adverse on the
marine ecosystem. This spills lead to the reduced mortality of fish and
shellfish due to the accumulation of hydrocarbons contained in the oil
products. This reduced mortality has an impact on the catch by the fishermen
which is in-turn linked to the reduced food production. In addition to reduced
mortality of the fish and shellfish, in case of an oil spill, there is expected
closure of fishing areas. During this closure, the demand for seafood decrease
because of changes in consumer perceptions and safety issues related to the
spill as stated in (JIR1, 2017)
Consumers may raise concern about consumption of seafood from polluted
environment hence limiting fishing in areas where oil spills might have happened.
For offshore natural gas and oil platform some studies have considered how
their construction, operation and decommissioning affect the bioaccumulation of
hydrocarbons and their toxicity in biotic and abiotic elements, community
structure and biodiversity changes and changes in abundance of marine species (Papathanasopoulou, et al., 2015)

Aquaculture installations are
also likely to suffer from oil spills and are particularly vulnerable since
they cannot be readily relocated. In addition, cultivation equipment may be
contaminated, providing a source for prolonged exposure to hydrocarbons. In
connection with the Hebei Spirit oil spill in Korea, the contamination of
shellfish cultures was extensive (Wilhelmsson, et al., 2013).

Production sites for oil and gas
also exclude ?shermen from an area, and the discharges of produced water
concern ?shermen. Fishermen claim that they have been permanently displaced
from ?shing areas in the North Sea and fear the same will happen in the Lofoten
area if the petroleum industry is given wide access in an area where the
continental shelf is narrow and space scarce. The petroleum industry on the
other hand downplays the con?ict with ?shermen citing a 40-years of experience (Olsen, Holen, Hoel, Buhl-Mortensen and Røttingen, 2016). This conflict has had an
impact on food production in that fishermen are getting lower catches due to
reduced fishing space.

Apart from the oil and gas exploration,
energy demands have led to the exploration of renewable energy in this case
wind farms. The impacts of wind farms can be categorized into two; construction
phase and operation phase. During the construction phase, impacts in the wind
farm area and the immediate surroundings are expected to be more numerous and
intense but of a shorter duration than the impacts during the operation phase(Vaissière, et al., 2014). Recent research shows that
during the construction phase, disturbance on the seabed during the piling of
the wind masts is expected which affects the marine resources. According to (Vaissière, Levrel, Pioch and Carlier, 2014),The seabed is compacted and made denser by the construction work.
The benthos (invertebrates like worms and shellfish), seagrass (if any), and
species living on the bed (e.g. starfish, crabs) are affected when the seabed
is dredged before digging into it and during the cable installation that links
offshore turbines to onshore substations. Turbidity and material from
stirred-up sediment can impact the benthos and filter feeders. Increased turbidity
during the construction phase does affects organisms that are directly
dependent on light, like aquatic plants, because it limits their ability to
carry out photosynthesis. This, in turn, affects other organisms that depend on
these plants for food and oxygen. Other effects include reduced
“scope for growth” in shellfish such as mussels, reduced algal
concentrations, increased mortality in early life history stages in fish, and a
number of distorted physiological processes.

During the operation phase of the
wind farms, as illustrated by  (Lindeboom, et al., 2011), Noise and vibrations from
the turbine generators and electromagnetic ?elds from cabling do not seem to
have a major impact upon ?sh and other mobile organisms attracted to the hard
bottom substrates for foraging, shelter and protection. The data collected by
the pelagic and demersal surveys indicate a highly dynamic ?sh community with
large differences between the catches before the wind farm was built and the
catches in the operational phase. Research undertaken in this field show that
that long term installation of off shore wind farms is beneficial to the fisheries
resources. With undisturbed breeding grounds, low interference from the structures,
reduced abstraction of the resources by the fishermen hence increasing the fish
and shellfish resources. This will in-turn lead to a spill-over of resources
into the unprotected areas hence increasing the fish resources in-turn
increasing food production. This was depicted by (Lindeboom, Kouwenhoven,
Bergman, Bouma, Brasseur, Daan, Fijn, Haan, Dirksen, Hal, Lambers, Hofstede,
Krijgsveld, Leopold and Scheidat, 2011) pointing out that for Danish
wind farms, Leonhard and Pedersen (2006) estimated that the availability of
food for ?sh directly around the turbine sites increased by a factor of approximately
50 after the introduction of hard substratum, in comparison with the former
sandy area. Taking the whole wind farm area into account they estimated an
increase of about 7% of the total biomass in the area, making an increase in ?sh
production related to the presence of the hard substratum possible.

Another impact of energy
generation in the North Sea is the generation of underwater noise. This is an
issue of concern because much of the marine life species use sound for
communication, navigation, foraging, avoiding predators, and finding potential
mates. However, according to (Bonar, et al., 2015) impact assessments are limited by a lack of
information regarding device performance data and species’ behavioural
responses. Little is known about background noise levels, the sound levels
produced during each stage of development, or how these sounds can affect the
ability of marine mammals to detect them. Assessment of the impact of
underwater noise is complex, partly because sound levels vary with device
design, array layout, and oceanographic conditions and partly because of the
nature of sound transmission underwater, as it is possible that received sound
levels could be higher at certain distant locations than at locations nearer to
the source. While a considerable amount of further research is required to
assess definitively the ecological impact of anthropogenic sound on marine life
a range of potential impacts have been suggested. Consequently, noise pollution will not only pose a great threat to
individual marine organisms but also may affect the composition, and
subsequently the health and service functions of the ecosystem. Case in point,
some studies have shown that anthropogenic noise caused a reduction in the
catch rate of some commercial marine species indicating a decrease in the
service function of the ecosystem for providing fishery products which
in turn affects seafood production in general.  


This article has examined how and
to what extent the Norwegian coexistence regime helps reduce con?ict levels and
resolve the con?icts that arise between the oil and ?shing industries.

Another key driver is the rising demand for seafood in developed
and transitional economies, coupled with declining ability to meet that demand
due to depletion and/or restrictive management of ?sh stocks and restrictions
on aquaculture development in those countries.(Crona,
et al., 2016)

Seafood contributed at least 15%
of average animal protein consumption to 2.9 billion people worldwide in 2006
and ?sheries and aquaculture directly employed 43.5 million people, with 520
million people indirectly deriving their livelihoods from seafood-related
industries (Asche, et al., 2015).

Population increase over the years has led to the
increased demand for food including seafood. The demand for seafood has been on
the rise for decades where much of it is sold either fresh or canned. The North
Sea is a major source of seafood for the Europe and the world. However, the increasing
demand for seafood is putting pressure on the fisheries resources.

Generation of energy from the sea
has had positive and negative impacts on marine ecosystem. This impacts
include; under water noise, availability of space, pollution among others.


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