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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...
Fin whale

From managing commercial slaughter to saving the whale – the International Whaling Commission at 75

Governments come together under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to make decisions...

20th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals Part 1

Wind, Whales, and Dolphins – the conservation impacts of marine renewables

The 20th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals is taking place this week in Dunedin, New Zealand.  This is the largest international conference focused on marine mammals and WDC is there to present our conservation work to the world. 

“Many difficult and complex conservation issues highlighted at this conference. One issue which floats to the top as having increasing significance is the growing industry of marine renewable energy. Whilst the need to replace our dependence on fossil fuels is paramount, a new report from WDC (7.5mb) on this issue also helped to highlight the need for greater collaboration between those developing marine renewables and the need for further research to determine critical coastal habitat to avoid conflicts between marine renewable developments and marine wildlife, especially marine mammals.”– Philippa Brakes, Senior Biologist, WDC

PRESENTATION ABSTRACT: The marine renewables dilemma –  Brakes, Philippa 1; Simmonds, Mark Peter 2 – (1) Whale and Dolphin Conservation   (2) Humane Society International

Marine renewable energy installations are developing at great speed all around the world as part of efforts to tackle Climate Change. A variety of associated potential threats to marine mammals have been identified. Common concerns for all types of renewable devices include the noise made especially during construction, particularly where piledriving is involved. In addition, structures may be a source of chemical contaminants, including antifouling treatments. Construction and operational noise may lead to displacement and other behavioural changes. Intense noise might cause impairment of auditory senses; and/or masking and stress responses. Tidal-stream energy devices typically comprise turbines that are entirely submerged and moving at speed (commonly up to 12 m.s-1, or 43 kph) relative to the streaming water mass, presenting a collision risk. Wave energy converters also represent a collision risk; as does the increased vessel traffic associated with construction and maintenance work. Vessels may be of novel design in order to operate within the renewable arrays or hold themselves static without anchoring, and this may bring new risks.

These concerns have been well sketched but there is very little relevant information to inform this rapidly expanding multifaceted industry; most relevant studies have been done in Europe and mainly concern the harbour porpoise. Individual installations and arrays are all set to become far larger than the operations that are in place currently which presents challenges in terms of extrapolation of impacts based on current monitoring. The marine renewables industry is widely regarded as an important part of future energy security and, as such, it tends to have high level political support. However, this is an unprecedented incursion by industry into inshore and offshore habitats, including what balanced and more precautionary strategy is needed that attempts to reconcile energy needs, uncertainty, conservation and welfare.