Isle Of Man Seabird Populations Plummet As Wind Farms Overwhelm The Irish Sea

  • Date: 23/06/19
  • Jason Endfield

Herring Gulls are down 82%, European Shag down 51%, Razorbills down 55%. The list goes on… * The world’s biggest offshore wind farm is just a few miles away. * Isn’t there a conspicuous connection?

The world’s largest working offshore wind farm – covering an area equal to 20,000 football pitches – is situated in the Irish Sea.

The Isle Of Man wildlife charity Manx Birdlife has reported a shocking 40% decline in the populations of many species of sea birds around the island’s coast.

The worrying figures emerged following a comprehensive census that took place over two years. Whatever the reason for the sharp decline of the birds, it illustrates that something has gone very wrong. 

I’ve noted with interest that this unprecedented drop in populations, of several of the island’s maritime species, coincides with the proliferation of wind farms in the Irish Sea – something which has worried me during the past few years, as I have witnessed the frenzied development of the wind industry in the waters off the western coasts of England and Wales.

World’s Biggest Offshore Wind Farm just a few miles away….

We know that offshore turbines kill birds and bats, though it is almost impossible to estimate the number of casualties because there are no retrievable carcasses to count at sea….

It is also highly likely that wind farms adversely affect many marine mammals.

The world’s largest offshore wind farm is now in operation off the Cumbrian coast at Walney, just 40 miles or so from the Isle of Man, and, with the news that nearby bird populations are in free-fall, we must seriously ask whether the huge turbines might be killing more birds than we ever anticipated.

View of the Walney windfarm and Isle of Man

The Isle of Man study was, ironically, partly supported by the Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm Project. How paradoxical would it be to find that the project itself, with its giant 640 feet turbines, was responsible for the plummeting numbers of sea birds.

The report is full of depressing statistics. Herring Gulls are down 82%, European Shag down 51%, Razorbills down 55%. The list goes on.

Marine Protected Areas “may not necessarily be major barrier to new projects…”

I’ve been increasingly concerned at the feverish pace of industrial offshore wind farm development in this country and especially in the Irish Sea. Such a high density of turbines in a confined area – an area renowned for its wildlife – has been watched with dismay by many environmentalists, especially since large parts of the sea have been designatedMarine Protected Areas (MPA’s), supposedly limiting the scale of industrial development in precious areas that provide important habitat for so many species.

Alas, development has been allowed in vast parts of the sea that fall just outside the protected zones – and there have even been hints that the MPA’s themselves may not be off limit for future wind farm expansion.  Last year, a report carried out for the Welsh government suggested that “this protection may not necessarily be a major barrier to new projects” – which sounds shockingly irresponsible to me.

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