An ambitious wind-power installation project may affect fishermen in Fukushima. (Photo: Marubeni Corp/FIS)
Fishers fear windmill project will destroy fishing ground
Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 01:50 (GMT + 9)
Fishers in Fukushima Prefecture are angry about the government-sponsored project to build a large floating wind-power installation in local waters. Fishers say they are already suffering financially due to the aftereffects of last year’s earthquake and tsunami, which unleashed a nuclear crisis in the prefecture by damaging the nuclear plant’s reactors.
The Fukushima Prefectural Government had the central government create a plan to float about 100 windmills in the Pacific Ocean off Fukushima to generate electricity, which the community urgently needs. But the scheme may force the local fishing industry to limit its operations, and this has sparked fierce opposition among the Fukushima prefectural federations of fisheries and fish processing cooperative associations.
Fish caught in waters off Fukushima have been found to contain more than the government-imposed limit of 500 Bq of radioactive cesium per kg, but the radiation levels in some kinds of fish have begun to decline. The offshore wind power project emerged abruptly just when the fishing body was considering resuming catches on an experimental basis, The Mainachi Daily News reports.
Calling Fukushima Prefecture the "pioneer land for renewable energy," the central government has earmarked about JPY 12.5 billion (USD 149.7 million) for research on the windmill project.
As potentially the world's biggest offshore wind-power project, some 100 windmills would likely be installed in the ocean to generate 1 million kW of power, equivalent to the capacity of one nuclear reactor.
As an experiment from fiscal 2011 to 2015, the government wants to build and float three windmills with a total output capacity of 16,000 kW.
This month, the government commissioned a group comprised of the University of Tokyo, Marubeni Corporation and other 9 private companies to carry out the project. The facility may be built in waters 100-150 m deep and 20-40 km off Iwaki – an area known for its terrific fishing resources.
"If the fishing ground is destroyed, we will not be able to make a living. It is a life-or-death issue," stated Akira Egawa, the deputy chief of the Iwaki Fisheries Cooperative Association.
The central government vowed to consider possible compensation after the project is carried out.
"We would like to consider making rules to ensure they can fish safely," Marubeni said.
Yoshihiro Niizuma, executive director of the Fukushima fishing body, fears trawling will be compromised.
"We fear that we may not be able to do trawl fishing anymore. That's the main line of our business. We can't cooperate with the plan easily also because the safety of the floating windmills is uncertain," he commented.
The consortium said it will work hard to keep relations with the local fishery industry healthy through strong communication while it pursues the commercialization of the offshore wind farm project.
By Natalia Real