Sea Shepherd's "Winds of Wrath" Campaign to Protect Brittany's Coast
Friday, 19 Nov, 2021
Sea Shepherd France fights to stop the construction of a wind farm in the biodiversity-rich site of the Bay of Saint-Brieuc, Brittany, in the direct vicinity of Natura 2000 sites and in the middle of the habitat of numerous protected species, some of which are critically endangered.
In Saint-Brieuc, the French government sacrifices marine biodiversity to the climate
The fight against climate change has emerged as a major challenge for the coming decades. We will have to meet it if we want to maintain conditions conducive to the survival of humanity. But an equally important challenge, if not more important, is still too widely overlooked: the preservation of biodiversity, the primary guarantor of the climate and of all the ecosystem services essential to the maintenance of life on planet Earth.
Or rather the planet Ocean. The ocean covers 70% of the globe, it is the first climate regulator, the first oxygen producer and the first carbon sink, before the forests. The ocean, or more precisely, marine life, is our best ally in the fight against climate change. It makes no sense to allow particularly invasive wind power projects to be built on sites rich in biodiversity, threatening the survival of many marine species and destroying entire marine ecosystems.
An industrial plant built by a Spanish multinational in the bay that houses the largest nature reserve in Brittany
The Spanish multinational Iberdrola, through its French branch Ailes Marines, has been awarded by the French government the particularly biodiversity-rich site of the Bay of Saint-Brieuc, in the direct vicinity of Natura 2000 sites and in the middle of the habitat of numerous protected species, some of which are critically endangered, such as the Balearic Shearwater, for whose preservation France has been obliged to put in place a National Action Plan (NAP). If the Spanish promoter is taking advantage of the gift, it is the French State (under the Sarkozy government) which has, in spite of common sense, designated the Bay of Saint-Brieuc as the spot to erect 62 wind turbines of more than 200 meters high (the equivalent of the Montparnasse tower) 16.3 kilometers from the coast over a total area of more than 103 square kilometers, with an underwater and underground electric cable that will carry a current of 250,000 volts.
A few basic questions are immediately obvious:
- How can the French government justify having authorized such an invasive industrial project in this strategically important place for marine biodiversity?
- Why didn't they take into account that the seabed in the bay is one of the hardest in Europe? Drilling there therefore causes vibrations and noise whose intensity is multiplied tenfold. The multinational announced that it could carry out an anchoring (drilling 3 holes for a wind turbine on the foundation) in four days. Three months later and after having broken its three drilling heads, not a single anchoring could be done. On other types of soil, only half a day is needed...
- Why have the results of the analysis of the pollution generated in June by the Aeolus (Iberdrola's drilling vessel) still not been made public? What about the second and more recent leak?
An unacceptable attack on marine biodiversity
The Bay of Saint-Brieuc is home to the largest nature reserve in Brittany, the two largest seabird nesting areas in France and the largest population of resident dolphins in Europe.
The impact studies carried out, not before designating the site as logic would have it, but after, are without appeal. Impacts designated as "strong" to "very strong" on numerous marine species suggest the worst. In fact, according to the study office commissioned by Iberdrola, for certain species, the survival of the population is not assured (Penguin and Common Murre among others).
Legal obligation to preserve species: the exemptions for the destruction of protected species granted to Iberdrola are illegal
Both the French State and the industrial developer are subject to the legal obligation to preserve species in a "favorable conservation status". Due to the presence of numerous protected species in the Bay of Saint-Brieuc, Iberdrola/Ailes Marines was forced to apply for an exemption for the intentional disturbance and destruction of 59 protected species (54 species of seabirds, 4 species of dolphins and one species of seal) as well as the destruction of their habitat.
The legal response
Sea Shepherd France denounces the fact that these exemptions of destruction and intentional disturbance are illegal and will therefore file an appeal before the Council of State in the coming days.
Other appeals are being prepared at the European level, together with the association Gardez Les Caps, which has been campaigning for many years alongside certain fishermen to prevent the plant from being installed in the bay.
French citizens misinformed about the ecological, economic and energy issues related to the wind industry
"The Minister of Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili claims that the majority of French people are in favor of wind turbines. The truth is that the majority of French people do not have the information to make an informed opinion on the subject," said Lamya Essemlali, President of Sea Shepherd France. "Sacrificing marine biodiversity, our best ally against climate change, on the pretext of fighting greenhouse gas emissions is total nonsense.
Experts and scientists are warning us, but so far they are preaching in the desert
The National Council for the Protection of Nature (CNPN), attached to the Ministry of Ecological Transition, whose recommendations have so far not been respected by Iberdrola, has taken up the issue of MREs (Marine Renewable Energies) and has just issued its report on July 6. We can read many particularly worrying points including this one:
"The potential impacts on biodiversitý represented by the development of offshore wind power in France, as planned by the 2020 EPP (... ) can be very important on marine biodiversitý, first of all on the breeding, migratory and wintering avifauna coming from the whole of Europe as well as migratory or local bats by mortalitý or loss of habitat on marine mammals by partial loss of habitats, and on marine habitats and species composing them, notably fish, crustaceans and mollusks by physical, hydrological and chemical modifications"
"The European Commission's objective, which could result in the equivalent of 34,000 offshore wind turbines in 2050, including 7100 for France, seems incompatible with the survival of many seabird species."
Cumulative effects by several wind plants installed on the migratory routes of birds and marine mammals
The Saint-Brieuc project is far from being the only one to pose a problem, others such as those of Courseules-sur-Mer, Fécamp, Saint Nazaire, Dunkerque, Ile d'Oléron, Belle Ile en mer and Ile de Groix present similar threats to vulnerable marine species and there is to date no consideration of the cumulative effects of the different projects on protected species and in particular on migratory species.
There is still time to avoid the worst, but public opinion must urgently take hold of the subject
An honest and transparent public debate (unlike the public debates that have been held so far) is needed to determine under what conditions wind farms can be allowed to destroy natural environments and, above all, which ecosystems must absolutely be preserved.
Sea Shepherd teams will be present in the Bay of Saint-Brieuc over the next few weeks to document, alert, and raise public awareness, and to echo scientific warnings on these crucial issues. A moratorium on offshore wind power projects must be put in place as a matter of urgency until a strict environmental roadmap is put in place. If this industry is really meant to take up the environmental challenge of the century, the preservation of biodiversity must be a priority for it. Otherwise, the "wind remedy" may turn out to be worse than the disease.