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Developer's latest environmental case for Tidal Lagoon in Swansea Bay 'fundamentally flawed'

04.09.17

swansea bay tidal lagoon drawing x550px
Artist's impression of the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon walkway

Fisheries and conservation experts have slammed the latest environmental impact modelling in support of the proposed tidal power lagoon in Swansea Bay as scientifically inadequate, and based on poor data and flawed assumptions.


Amongst other requirements, Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay plc needs a marine licence for the proposed development from Natural Resources Wales (NRW), the Welsh Government’s environmental watchdog. The Company’s previous evidence about fish in support of its application for a licence was rejected last December because NRW considered that the lagoon could have a ‘major adverse impact’ on populations of salmon, sea trout and other fish species of high conservation value. The outcome was classified as being ‘uncertain’ because so little was known about the behaviour of these fish in coastal waters and how they would be affected by the turbines housed in the lagoon’s sea-wall

The Company has now presented new computer models to NRW, claiming with ‘high confidence’ that the impact on key species will be ‘insignificant’.

Fish Legal is very concerned, based on independent expert analysis, that the company’s new assessment is misleading and overconfident, in fact providing little certainty about the impact of the lagoon on already endangered stocks of salmon and other fish species.


Fish Legal represents several of its member angling clubs in South Wales who would be seriously affected by the likely impact on fisheries. It set out its concerns about the poor quality of the latest submission in a detailed letter to Natural Resources Wales based on initial expert analysis of the modelling and evidence.

From this analysis, Fish Legal considers that the Company’s new assessment has:
  • made assumptions that were overly-optimistic;
  • failed to gather basic field data about the behaviour of fish in Swansea Bay itself;
  • failed to apply knowledge from scientific studies elsewhere;
  • failed to apply the precautionary principle, which is crucial when detailed information is missing; and
  • spuriously claimed a high level of confidence that the proposed lagoon would not cause an unlawful deterioration of the ecological status of one or more water bodies.
Specifically, the Company has:
  • assumed with poor justification that most returning salmon cross Swansea Bay swiftly, remaining away from the turbines;
  • assumed with scant evidence that most salmon, up to 99%, will actively avoid the tidal water flowing into the turbines; and
  • failed to recognise the sensitivity of already depleted local populations to the impact of annual losses caused by the lagoon.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal said: “This further re-working of the evidence remains disappointingly weak. Despite its apparent complexity, it amounts to little more than a guess, because so little baseline data is available. We expect Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and its scientific advisors to take a more objective view and reject it once again. A marine licence issued on the basis of not fully re-examining such an overly-optimistic analysis of selective and inadequate data could be open to judicial review. Fish Legal will not hesitate to take whatever steps are necessary to protect our members’ fisheries.

“There remains no reliable evidence to prove that lagoons would not cause very significant environmental damage to one of the country’s most important and sensitive environments and its threatened fish stocks. This white elephant project with its untried technology should be shelved to remove the threat to fish and other wildlife, and to avoid contributing further to concerns about rising electricity bills. We need to take a strategic approach to identifying more cost-effective and environmentally safe ways to provide renewable energy.”

Contact: Fish Legal - Eastwood House | 6 Rainbow Street | Leominster | HR6 8DQ | Tel: 01568 620447

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