The aim of this report is to provide an overview of the fieldwork that has been conducted during 2020.
In March 2020 restrictions and guidelines were put in place by the UK and Scottish governments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was identified that the core fieldwork planned was essential to maintain the research monitoring required under the planning consent conditions for the Moray East Offshore Windfarm as a critical national infrastructure project. We risk assessed all fieldwork, adding to our protocols and procedures. Approval to carry out this work, where it was deemed safe, and under strict procedures and current guidelines, was given by both the University of Aberdeen and Moray East.
We completed a further year’s individual-based monitoring of harbour seals at our Loch Fleet study site and conducted counts at other Moray Firth haulout sites. Individual based photo-identification studies of bottlenose dolphins were also conducted through most of the summer, and PAM studies were carried out to monitor dolphin occurrence in key inshore areas within the inner and southern Moray Firth. Most of the inshore long term and south coast CPODs were successfully recovered. Four inshore long term CPODs remain deployed over the winter.
PAM studies also continued within the Moray East construction site and in reference areas. Most offshore CPODs and all SoundTraps were successfully recovered. Twelve CPODs and two long term noise recorders (SoundTraps) remain deployed at the construction site and reference areas over the winter. Data from these recordings will underpin the monitoring of harbour porpoise occurrence during construction and will be used to investigate variation in noise levels during the different phases of construction.