The start of construction for 62 wind turbines off the northwest coast of France triggered intense protests from commercial fishermen who fear potential impacts on scallops and other fisheries.

The project off the Côtes-d'Armor region of Brittany brought out a May 7 demonstration by a reported 72 fishing vessels that maneuvered around the 457-foot wind turbine installation vessel Aeolus.

Dutch offshore operator Van Oord is installing jacket foundations for the 496-megawatt project by Ailes Marine, a subsidiary of Spanish renewable energy company Iberdrola. The developers successfully defended the plan against court challenges and the first piling installations started May 3.

French police forces mobilized to protect the project and warned fishermen to maintain a 550-meter (1,800 feet) safety zone around the installation vessel.

Early this week Alain Coudray, president of the Côtes-d'Armor fisheries committee, warned the government through local news media that “the fight has only just begun, on land and at sea, actions will multiply so that the State understands that it is time to go green with its heart , by taking into consideration the uses and the society which define the territory and in a desire to respect them and the environment.”

Fishermen contend the project threatens the ocean ecology and in particular their scallop fishery. Coudray said he has unsuccessfully sought to talk to French environmental minister Barbara Pompili, adding that “if the Minister does not come, we will go to her.

“Today, contempt for our profession is intolerable .”

French maritime authorities issued warnings on social media for fishermen to keep clear of the wind installation vessel Aeolus during a May 7 protect.

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Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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