parts of the North Sea are already being earmarked for European protection including an area nearly 80 miles off the Yorkshire coast which could soon be home to the world’s largest offshore wind farm.
Last autumn a 4,600 sq mile area of Dogger Bank was submitted to the European Commission to be included in a European network of nature protection sites.
However, a vast tract has also been earmarked for a giant wind farm which will generate up to 10 per cent of the nation’s electricity, raising grave concerns about the devastating impact on the marine environment.
Flamborough fisherman Kirk Crimlisk, claims a rising tide of wind farm developments is set to wipe out half of the North Sea, with fishing stocks already suffering as a result of existing turbines.
“The greatest danger to marine wildlife in the North Sea is the amount of wind farms that are being proposed to go up,” he said.
The wind farm at Dogger Bank, which is expected to include about 2,600 giant turbines each up to 400ft tall, will cover more than 3,300 sq miles – equivalent to the size of North Yorkshire, England’s largest county.
It is hoped that thousands of jobs will be created as North Yorkshire’s coastal towns play a significant role in supporting the industry.
When the move for European protection was announced last autumn, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said plans to develop the site as a prime area for offshore wind farms should not be jeopardised.
However, it said plans may have to be modified after being assessed for their environmental impact.
This summer, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is planning to carry out the first ecological survey of its kind in an attempt to alleviate growing fears that underwater habitats could be wiped out by the giant turbines.
It will be the first time anyone has dived the English waters of Dogger Bank, which lies between the UK, the Netherlands and Germany.
The area is an important habitat for crabs, brittlestar starfish, jellyfish, clams, plaice, sole and sand eels.
It is also acted as a fertile feeding ground for sea birds.
Kirstin Smith, the trust’s North Sea marine advocacy manager, said that her organisation was keen to work in partnership with developers to ensure that disruption was minimised.
She said: “The Wildlife Trust supports green energy but we are concerned at the moment about putting an offshore wind farm in a marine protected area.
“This gives us an opportunity to have a look and see if the development will have any implications on the wildlife.
“We will be working with the developers to reduce the impact.”