Shona Gossip — Aberdeen Journals Ltd. (UK) — May 20, 2015
Noise from the construction of offshore wind turbines could be damaging the hearing of harbour seals, according to new research published today.
Scientists at St Andrews University say noise from the pile driving process could affect the marine mammals’ ability to find food or mates and to detect and avoid deadly predators.
Offshore wind turbines are installed using pile drivers – large hammers that drive the foundation posts into the sea bed – which produce short pulsed sounds every few seconds.
There are currently 1,184 turbines around the coast of the UK generating around 4GW of power. The next round of construction, which began last year, will see hundreds more installed to generate a further 31GW.
Ecologists from the university’s sea mammal research unit (SMRU) attached GPS data loggers to 24 harbour seals while offshore wind turbines were being installed in the Wash in 2012.
They logged the seals’ locations and their diving behaviour, relaying the information onshore via the mobile phone network.
The data was combined with information on when pile driving was taking place to produce models which predicted the noise each seal was exposed to, and compared this with noise levels that other studies show cause auditory damage.
The model found that half of the tagged seals were exposed to noise levels that exceeded hearing damage thresholds. Continue reading here…