An iterative approach has been used to identify knowledge gaps and information requirements in relation to the potential effects of offshore and marine renewable energy generation on Atlantic salmon and other freshwater fish that migrate to and from the sea. Initially reviews were conducted to identify existing information on migration (Malcolm et al., 2010) and effects of noise and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) (Gill and Bartlett, 2010; Gill et al., 2012). Based on these reviews and other information, options for research were scoped (Malcolm et al., 2013). This scoping exercise then served as the basis for consultation with OMRE and fisheries sectors to identify sectorial priorities for investigation (Hunter et al., 2014; LINK 2). The consultation process was overseen by the Steering Group, which includes representation from offshore and marine renewable energy sectors (OMRE), wild fisheries sectors and Scottish Government (policy, science and licensing operations team).
The main focus is on Atlantic salmon in recognition that this species is a priority from conservation and economic perspectives. It also focuses on potential projects which Marine Scotland can commission, carry out itself, or be closely involved in, and which primarily support marine/offshore renewable developments. The results of work being carried out for other purposes, or by parties such as the ERI, SAMS and the Scottish Universities, also plays an important part in filling knowledge gaps. As a living document, the aim is to incorporate work on sea trout, sea lamprey and European eel, as significant projects are developed on those species.
Due to the magnitude of the task, a complete understanding of the biology of salmon at sea and their likely interactions with OMRE will take some time to emerge. Current understanding of the likely interactions between diadromous fish and OMRE is limited. As investigations are refined and results of research accumulate, a clearer picture will emerge. For example, there is no information on the migratory routes or behaviour of salmon smolts leaving Scottish east coast rivers, and limited data on returning adults. There are therefore significant identified gaps that can be filled by renewed research activity. Increasing the knowledge base of salmon in the coastal zone and their response to generating systems would enable more effective risk assessments to be undertaken. This will be of benefit in planning sustainable development of the OMRE industry. This information is also fundamental in the general management of salmon in relation to marine spatial planning, e.g. regulation of fisheries and assessing possible effects of aquaculture.
General outline of research requirements
Following Malcolm et al. (2013) and the stakeholder engagement process, the critical areas of interest can be considered under two main themes:
- Theme 1: current and priority research actions specific to offshore and marine renewable energy development
- Theme 2: current and near-term research actions to implement a better understanding of Atlantic salmon populations to support the knowledge-base underlying risk assessments for OMRE developments
To ensure that the themes and research objective questions are aligned with the prevailing and emerging research demands for offshore and marine renewable energy development, a programme of engagement has been designed which includes a management steering group and on-going direct stakeholder consultations. Additionally advice and evidence from Scottish National Heritage, Crown Estate, Joint Nature Conservation Committee and other academic research organisations will be established.
General strategic considerations
Developing the research themes is a substantial undertaking requiring wide-ranging research across a number of disciplines, including behavioural ecology, physiology, engineering and population dynamics. No single approach is likely to provide all the answers. Rather, benefit will likely accrue from a combination of approaches, as is common in the development of scientific understanding.
Fundamentally ensuring delivery of the research objective questions will be incumbent upon developing and maintaining partnerships. These partnerships should firstly include maintaining the consultations with external stakeholders and secondly ensure that working with academic partners, industrial partners, or research councils is delivered effectively. This two-step partnership approach to the strategy will ensure that it incorporates a range of appropriate expertise and resources aimed at delivering the research objective questions in a manner that produces practical and recognisable information capable of supporting sustainable OMRE development.
At this stage, research has commenced in relation to some of the most important questions. Scoping has also been carried out to identify future research requirements. In some cases this scoping work is at an advanced stage and incorporates estimates of the resource required to collect data in specific areas. The strategy distinguishes between current actions and those future actions that have currently been identified as being of potential value. Where available, details of scoping are provided in the associated links.