Developing and testing models of fish behaviour around tidal turbines

A new project funded by NERC to provide an evidence-based tool to forecast the effects of anthropogenic noise on marine fish for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).

Ilaria Spiga, a PhD student at Newcastle University, has successfully won a 6-month NERC Marine Renewable Energy Knowledge Exchange Programme Internship to run in collaboration with Dr Steve Simpson at the University of Exeter and the hydrological modelling team at HR Wallingford.

Ilaria will work with Kate Rossington and her team on developing and testing the HR Wallingford HAMMER model to incorporate data of behavioural responses of marine fish to noise exposure from the installation and operation of the Sustainable Marine Energy (SME) tidal turbine at Trinity Wharf, East Cowes. This project aims to collect behavioural data for UK fish species to improve the existing tool and predict direct effects of anthropogenic noise exposure, including lateralisation, feeding disruption and predator-prey relationships. Behavioural experiments will be carried at the University of Exeter, where existing facilities are available for such studies, under the supervision of Dr Steve Simpson.  

This project offers a valuable opportunity to work in close collaboration with a multidisciplinary team comprising the tidal turbine developer SME, the scientific consultancy HR Wallingford and experts at the University of Exeter. By collecting data on a new tidal turbine device (PLAT-O), which is being installed and secured in place using novel techniques, this project will generate a significant increase in the body of knowledge available for assessing impacts on the marine environment from these marine renewable devices. This will aid decision making for developers currently installing marine renewable devices of all types in areas where traditional pile driving may not be feasible.

Elements of this project will also be useful for other partners, including Natural England who has requested a review of modelling methods. A common issue for regulators is that data being collected by consultancies are not being shared, thus the value of this reference data set collected at PLAT-O for use in models will be invaluable.

Date: 30 April 2014

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