MEPS 590:247-266 (2018)  -  DOI:

First in situ passive acoustic monitoring for marine mammals during operation of a tidal turbine in Ramsey Sound, Wales

Chloe E. Malinka1,2,5,*, Douglas M. Gillespie1, Jamie D. J. Macaulay1, Ruth Joy3,4, Carol E. Sparling

1Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, School of Biology, University of St Andrews, East Sands, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, UK
2SMRU Consulting Europe, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9SR, UK
3SMRU Consulting North America, Vancouver, BC V6J 1R1, Canada
4Dept. of Statistics, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, Canada
5Present address: Dept. Bioscience, Aarhus University, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The development of marine renewables has raised concerns regarding impacts on wildlife, and environmental monitoring is often required. We examined 3 mo of continuous passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) data collected at the Tidal Energy Ltd. DeltaStream turbine deployment in Ramsey Sound, UK. We aimed to assess the performance of the PAM system at an operational turbine, describe the 3D movements and behaviours of small cetaceans in the vicinity of the turbine, and model changes in detection rates against temporal and environmental variables. The PAM system was designed to acoustically detect, classify and track porpoises and dolphins via their vocalisations within a ~100 m radius of the turbine. In total, 247 small cetacean encounters were identified from click detections, which were also used to reconstruct the spatial movements of porpoises and dolphins, including close approaches to the turbine. Not all hydrophones were functional, which limited the ability to localise porpoise clicks; the probability of detecting and localising a click decreased by 50% at a range of ~20 m. Mechanical sounds on the turbine may have alerted cetaceans of its presence. In models examining acoustic detection patterns, the tidal state, time of day, low low-frequency noise levels and moon phase best explained the acoustic presence of porpoises. The limited duration of turbine operation yielded insufficient data to understand the effect of turbine rotation on animal presence and movement near the turbine. This is the first description of how small cetaceans behave and move around a tidal turbine, and we present recommendations regarding how PAM can be used to improve environmental monitoring at future tidal energy sites.

KEY WORDS: Marine renewables · Passive acoustic monitoring · Collision risk · Tidal energy · Environmental monitoring · Echolocation · Harbour porpoise

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Cite this article as: Malinka CE, Gillespie DM, Macaulay JDJ, Joy R, Sparling CE (2018) First in situ passive acoustic monitoring for marine mammals during operation of a tidal turbine in Ramsey Sound, Wales. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 590:247-266.

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