The Bay of Biscay is an active region for France’s maritime economy, home to small-scale fisheries, aquaculture, sea salt harvesting, naval bases, ship yards and maritime transport. These activities have historically shaped local communities' identities, landscapes, as well as rural areas and coastal cities located all along the Atlantic coast. In the last decades, the maritime economy of the study area has undergone significant changes. On one hand, some of the well-established sectors such as the fishing, aquaculture and shipbuilding industries have shown signs of weakness, despite their important political weight. On the other hand, seasonal tourism between late spring and early autumn has become a major economic driver. Additionally, new ocean uses are gradually emerging. For example, by 2023 the northern Bay of Biscay is supposed to host two of the six offshore wind farms already planned in France.
These shifts in the region’s maritime economy often leads to mistrust and sometimes to antagonisms between marine stakeholders, but rarely to cooperation. Tourism development, diversification and expansion within the Bay’s waters can generate opportunities, but also puts seasonal pressures on other activities. Although some fishers sought alternative sources of income due to quotas reductions and fish stocks decline, most of them remained indifferent to tourism. In the Bay of Biscay, states of fish stocks are constantly improving: 35% are still over-fished and depleted in 2018 (compared to 45% in 2000), but 44% are ever sustainably exploited or are recovering (compared to 18% in 2000) (Biseau, 2020 (web-link)).
France is looking increasingly offshore for space to achieve ambitious renewable energy targets (i.e. 2.4 GW in 2023 and 5 GW in 2028 for the offshore wind energy, according to the 2015-992 French Energy Transition Law). This leads to a number of uncertainties regarding impacts and risks, which need to be addressed to foster public acceptance of offshore wind farms, while ensuring existing uses are not pushed out. In recent years, some fishers and local environmental NGOs voiced opposition of the offshore wind energy projects. This has led the authorities to develop acceptability strategies to manage arising conflicts. In particular, several mechanisms such as territorial compensation, establishment of participatory processes, local taxation, etc. are used to push projects forward (Oiry, 2017 (web-link)).
However, ocean multi-use strategies promoting synergies between marine uses and users could be more efficient at reducing conflicts while addressing sustainability. The regional maritime business and research communities have a high interest in exploring how the multi-use concept can be integrated into the region’s transforming maritime economy. Local industries, planners and regulators have some engagement with multi-use among existing uses, but questions remain regarding introduction of new uses. Indeed, national and regional planning processes as well as marine renewable energy promoters are those who would much benefit from advances achieved by multi-use solutions. Still, some other users - such as fishers in the case of floating wind turbines and aquaculture farmers in the case of grounded and floating wind parks.
Representatives from regional and national governments, local and regional business, NGOs, and research institutions will be engaged in scenario development so that results can be used in ongoing efforts to shape the region’s maritime economy in response to policy targets. For instance, scenarios outputs will be useful for: