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Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Volume 5 Number 7: EMEC Fall of Warness Tidal Test Site: Wildlife Observations Project Annual Report

Annual report of the wildlife observation programme underway at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney - Fall of Warness


2. Introduction

The potential displacement of key wildlife species ( e.g. marine mammals and marine birds) from their normal range of habitats is a key factor which needs to be addressed by developers in order for the marine renewable energy industry to progress. It is recognised that assessing marine species' usage of particular areas of ocean is an extremely challenging task. 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 tidal test site at Fall of Warness, Eday, Orkney Islands in order to aid informing the solution to this industry-wide concern.

Activities of the wildlife observation programme underway at EMEC are overseen by the EMEC Monitoring Advisory Group ( MAG), whose membership includes representatives from Marine Scotland Science ( MSS), Marine Scotland Licencing Operations Team ( MS-LOT), Marine Scotland Compliance, Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH), Scottish Government ( SG), and the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University ( SMRU). The objectives of this group include: translation of policy requirements into practical monitoring effort; overseeing the production of relevant monitoring tools and best practice techniques at the EMEC test sites whilst ensuring monitoring effort and methods of data stewardship are compatible with relevant methodologies; and exchanging knowledge and information relating to similar initiatives so as to avoid duplication and establish links with other relevant research programmes at national and international level. The terms of reference for the EMEC MAG are provided as Annex A of this document.

Land-based wildlife observations using a bespoke methodology initially developed with input from SMRU have been carried out at the site since July 2005. 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 test site area.

The main objective of this project is to provide site description species data which can later 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 to wildlife behaviour.

Detailed analysis of the data collected is out-with the scope of the project. A first-stage analysis of the data up until June 2010 has been carried out by SNH (Robbins, 2011) and a separate project funded by Marine Scotland, SNH and EMEC has been established to perform an in-depth analysis of the data. The EMEC Wildlife Data Analysis project commenced in August 2013, and will analyse all wildlife data collected at the EMEC grid-connected test sites from July 2005 to March 2015. Initial results are expected in summer 2015, with final results due to be reported in November 2015. EMEC has subcontracted the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling ( CREEM) of the University of St Andrews to provide expert statistical input and training for this project.

Outputs from the project will be available to all relevant parties including marine energy technology developers and other marine renewables environmental projects. The data collected in this project will be publically available via the Marine Scotland Interactive website [1] .

This report provides details of project progress for the period 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014.

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