Developing and testing models of fish behaviour around tidal turbines

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Marine Science and Technology


Human activities add sounds to the aquatic environment across a wide spectrum of frequencies spectrum and at substantial source levels, and these sounds are generally within the most sensitive hearing range of fish species. Over the last decade there has been a growing interest in marine renewable energy, resulting in the rapid development of offshore energy installations. Construction of this infrastructure typically involves pile-driving and support ships, which have raised concerns about the resulting environmental impact of high sound levels on species such as marine mammals and fish. As the marine renewable energy industry develops, our understanding of the noise produced and the potential effects on marine species must be improved so that appropriate mitigation procedures can be developed.
This project aims to provide an evidence-based tool to forecast the effects of anthropogenic noise on marine fish. The initial literature review will provide a meta-analysis of projects that have been undertaken within the field of underwater propagation modelling and/or have identified behavioural impacts of anthropogenic noise on marine fish. The outputs of the review will inform subsequent tasks, specifically the design of the field measurements for the behavioural assessments. In addition, the review will help to define the acronyms, metrics and assumptions most used in the literature associated with the models. This will improve the understanding and interpretation of existing models, and inform on which is the most appropriate model for noise studies.
This project aims to collect behavioural data for ecologically and economically important UK fish species to improve the existing tool (HAMMER model) and predict direct effects of anthropogenic noise exposure. Anticipated measurements range from instantaneous responses to significant avoidance and abandonment of the study area. Behavioural data will be collected at the installation area using wild animals. In addition, behavioural experiments will also be carried at the University of Exeter. The laboratory environment will enable experiments to be performed under controlled conditions, playing back the sounds collected at the study area to observe the responses of fish. There are few studies which have analysed the effects of underwater noise produced by tidal turbines on marine species and this project will aid understanding of the potential consequences.
The main source of anthropogenic noise considered in this project will be from the installation and operation of the SME tidal turbine at Trinity Wharf, East Cowes. The device used is new and there is little information on associated noise emissions. It is expected that drilling will be used to fix the mooring points, however, the greatest interest will be given to the operational noise. The PLAT-O system uses small vessels to operate and maintain the tidal energy system. The noise from the vessels will be taken into account along with the noise emitted from the tidal turbine device.The project will collect data on the background noise and incorporate them into the model.
SME will benefit from having experimental data that support their sustainable energy activity and assess whether the development of such constructions is environmentally safe and does not present a danger for biodiversity. HR Wallingford will benefit greatly by improving their model to predict the impact of anthropogenic noise on fish behaviour.


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Description The level of underwater produced during the installation of the platform supporting the tidal device for marine renewable energy was lower than the conventional pile driving.
The level of underwater noise from drilling did not impact the behaviour of European sea bass, a local species.
Exploitation Route The measurements of the levels of underwater noise from the installation of the SME's platform supporting the tidal device could include the 4 screw piles, to expand the knowledge of the underwater noise emission of SME's activity.
The assessment of the impact of the underwater noise from drilling could be further expand by using caged sea bass exposed to the drilling activity.
The measurements of the levels of drilling noise from the installation of the marine renewable energy device could be use by developers as baseline for installations of this kind.
The measurements of the underwater noise levels could be used by developers and researchers for modelling and included in a database.
Sectors Energy,Environment

Description My findings have been used by the developer partner, SME, to support their application to MMO for a new license.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services