The Joint Nature Conservation Committee, the Countryside Council for Wales and NERC Knowledge Exchange Programme commissioned a workshop to develop discussions on the risks from renewable energy devices to marine mammal populations (see Appendix I for the agenda and Appendix II for the list of participants). The Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies (SNCBs) have identified a need for a framework to enable the assessment of risk of impacts on marine mammal populations arising from disturbance and mortality caused by the installation and operation of marine renewables (offshore wind, wave and tidal). Up to the present date, consenting decisions involving considerations of impact to marine mammals have been made based on the premise that small scale individual wind farms or demonstration wave and tidal projects will not carry a risk to the Favourable Conservation Status (FCS) of populations nor to the integrity of Natura 2000 sites. In some cases, the risks to marine mammal populations posed by tidal stream projects have been reduced to acceptable limits by defining collision thresholds.
The SNCBs have advised the regulators that the evidence in this field is very limited and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to advise on new developments without a transparent, logical, repeatable and biologically relevant framework for assessing likely impacts and (if needed) managing the risk of impacts to marine mammal populations. Current advice to regulators and developers is based on limited evidence within a context of potential negative impacts on populations of marine mammals, particularly those that could arise from the cumulative effects of several large scale developments or multiple novel technologies combined with other ongoing pressures. The rapid expansion in the number and scale of offshore renewable developments combined with the precautionary principle required to assess likely impacts and the lack of a thorough understanding of the actual effects is resulting in consenting challenges that reinforce the need for an assessment framework. These challenges are likely to be most significant for developments within the range of small, semi-resident populations and for multiple developments with the potential to impact cumulatively on marine mammal populations. As a consequence SNCB advice to industry and regulators is likely to be provided on a very precautionary basis.
To progress this issue, a workshop was hosted to consider and assess the challenges that stakeholders are currently facing when having to determine and manage the risks of renewable energy devices to marine mammal populations. The aim of this workshop was to explore the development of a UK based framework, appropriate for assessing mortality and disturbance impacts 2 | Page on marine mammal populations, arising from the installation and operation of offshore renewables. The workshop gathered academics, regulators, nature conservation advisory bodies and industry to agree on an approach that is appropriate to the issues and populations of concern. In particular, the aim of the workshop was to reach agreement on the questions that need answering and their regulatory context, to identify and discuss the available data and assumptions, to discuss and identify the most appropriate modelling approaches and to explore the scenarios and levels of impact to be considered.