School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Projects

Marine mammals and noise – a case study at the National Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) offshore demonstration site, Blyth, Northumberland

Background

Many marine mammal populations, particularly cetaceans, are threatened by anthropogenic activities including fisheries by catch, vessel and propeller strikes, noise and environmental pollution. Marine mammals use sound for navigation, prey detection and communication. The increased anthropogenic noise from shipping, marine construction, seismic surveys and offshore renewable energy installations may impact marine mammal navigation, prey detection and communication and hence affect the conservation status of marine mammals. To date marine noise impact on marine mammals has focused on impact from the construction and operation of marine wind farms for individual sites. Less attention has been given to the potential greater impacts from cumulative effects of noise from marine renewable energy developments and shipping on marine mammal populations.

Project

In this study a comprehensive approach will be taken by combining data on underwater noise, environmental parameters, vessel activity and marine mammal occurrence to assess potential impact on marine mammals from the development and operation of offshore energy installations e.g. wind and underwater turbines. The studies are conducted in the National Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) offshore demonstration site off Blyth, Northumberland. Noise and cetacean occurrence data are collected before, during and after installation work using passive acoustic monitoring (noise loggers, cetacean click recorders and R/V Princess Royal’s towed hydrophone array) and visual distance sampling methods at fixed locations and along transects covering the study site. A calibration study (tank and in the field) of different acoustic monitoring equipment is planned to facilitate future comparisons between different sites where different equipment have been used.

The results will be informative for development of mitigation measures to minimise impact from offshore renewable installations and for assessment of noise related impact on marine mammal populations.