A key concern expressed by policy makers, regulators and environmental stakeholders about deployment of marine energy devices in open waters, relates to the possibility of the negative effects they may have on marine mammals and diving birds. The potential for direct collision with such devices, or harmful effects caused by their presence, including the potential for displacement of marine wildlife from habitual waters, are key factors which need to be addressed in order for the marine renewable energy industry to progress. In order to get as accurate a picture as possible about the presence and behaviour of marine wildlife in the vicinity of operating devices, data needs to be collected both underwater and at the sea surface.
The European Marine Energy Centre Ltd (EMEC) has received research funding from the Scottish Government to carry out land-based vantage point surface wildlife observations at its four test sites in the Orkney Islands (see below) in order to inform on the potential for any displacement effect. These observations provide baseline data which can be used to look at the distribution and behaviour of marine mammals, diving birds and other wildlife across the area of the test sites. The data gathered can also be used to inform regulatory decision-making, as well as in guiding developers’ device-specific wildlife monitoring programmes.
The main objective of the programme is to provide information about species presence and behaviour at each site, which can be used to establish whether the installation, presence and operation of marine energy converter devices causes displacement of surface-visible wildlife from habitual waters, and to identify any discernible changes in wildlife behaviour. Analysis of the data collected is currently under way through a separately funded project.
Activities of this wildlife observation programme are overseen by the EMEC Monitoring Advisory Group (MAG), whose membership includes representatives from Marine Scotland Science, Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team, Marine Scotland Compliance, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Government, and the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews (SMRU).
Wildlife observation data gathered to date at each of EMEC’s four test sites can be downloaded from the links below.
For further information about the land-based surface wildlife observation programme under way at EMEC or queries regarding the data collected, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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