Annex IV distributes metadata forms (questionnaires) to solicit information from researchers around the world who are exploring the environmental effects of marine renewable energy. This page provides a description and contact information related to the research. Content is updated on an annual basis.

Understanding How Marine Renewable Device Operations Influence Fine Scale Habitat Use & Behaviour of Marine Vertebrates (RESPONSE)

Research Study Annex IV

Title: Understanding How Marine Renewable Device Operations Influence Fine Scale Habitat Use & Behaviour of Marine Vertebrates (RESPONSE)
Start Date:
January 01, 2011
Research End Date:
July 01, 2015
Technology Type:
Info Updated:
March 03, 2016
Study Status: 
Princple Investigator Contact Information: 

Name: Dr. David Thompson (project coordinator)


Project Description: 

The RESPONSE project is a multi‐disciplinary study focusing on causal links between marine renewable devices (MRD) and changes in the fine‐scale distribution and behaviour of marine vertebrates. The overall aim of the project is to identify and quantify actual risk of negative consequences and therefore remove one key layer of uncertainty in the scale of risk to the industry and natural environment. Such work will help refine mitigation measures to those that are necessary and effective by removing ambiguity surrounding the effects of marine renewable energy devices on marine wildlife.

Funding Source: 

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Location of Research: 


Project Aims: 
  • Understand how stakeholders view the risks to both industry and the environment
  • Measure the fine scale distribution of marine wildlife in high tidal and wave energy sites to understand how seals, cetaceans, birds and large fish use such areas
  • Characterise acoustics, visual and electromagnetic signals that marine renewable devices produce and assess the reactions of marine wildlife to those cues
  • Use results from habitat preference models to infer zones of influence and avoidance associated with marine renewable devices
  • Develop effective mitigation methods

These aims will be met by a number of sub projects that will:

  1. Bring together a UK wide group of regulators, conservation groups and industry to assess the perception of risk to the industry and environment posed by negative interactions with marine wildlife.
  2. Use a number of methods to record details of fish, mammals and seabird habitat use and behaviour in and around operational wave and tidal test sites and an un‐developed high energy tide site. These studies will be co‐ordinated with FLOWBEC.
  3. Carry out a programme of physical measurements to characterise the outputs of MRDs that have a potential to cause disturbance to marine wildlife.
  4. Carry out a series of controlled exposure/behaviour response trials with captive seals and with wild free ranging seals and porpoises.
  5. Use visual and acoustic observation data and the operating schedules of existing MRDs to assess the responses of seabirds to MRD operations.
Project Progress: 

Project is complete.

Key Findings: 

SMRU have carried out a successful series of behavioural response trials with wild harbour seals in western Scotland and with captive grey and harbour seals, in both cases assessing reactions to controlled exposure to noise from a tidal turbine. Preliminary analyses of results suggest that the reactions to sounds were minor and transient. The analysis of these two data sets is ongoing.


The high resolution telemetry data collected during the wild studies has identified a striking and hitherto unobserved use of tidal rapids by large concentrations of harbour seals. To date it is unknown if this is unique, but it has clear implications for the future planned turbine deployments in such tidal sites.

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