The Environmental Technical Working Group (ETWG) of COWRIE commissioned the priority research project COWRIE 2.0 EMF with the objective to determine if electromagnetic sensitive fish respond to controlled electromagnetic fields (EMF) with the characteristics and magnitude of EMF associated with offshore wind farm power cables.
The project was undertaken by a consortium with representatives from Cranfield University (Project Coordinators), Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies Ltd (CMACS), Centre for Fisheries, Environment and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and Centre for Intelligent Monitoring Systems (CIMS), University of Liverpool.
The project took an experimental research approach by enclosing a section of sub-sea cable within a suitable area of seabed using an approach known as ‘mesocosm studies’ to allow the response of elasmobranch test species to controlled electromagnetic fields to be assessed within a semi-natural setting. Prior to the study and following peer-review of the project design it had been agreed with members of COWRIE that the mesocosm approach would be the best option for obtaining scientifically rigorous information required to answer the primary research question:
- Do electromagnetically (EM) sensitive organisms respond to anthropogenic EMFs of the type and magnitude generated by offshore wind farms?
Answering this question is an important first stage before needing to consider whether any effects of EMF may be positive or negative? The focus of our study and this report was therefore on addressing the primary objective, which will then be of value for further consideration of potential effects.
The study was conducted under controlled research conditions but to improve its applicability to the actual situation found at a wind farm the mesocosm experiment took place in a shallow, sheltered coastal water location. The study used acoustic telemetry technology, to detect the real-time movements of individually identifiable fish within a mesocosm in relation to an energized section of sub-sea electricity cable. A second mesocosm without the cable energized was used as a reference.
Here, the consortium presents the final report to the Programme Management at Nature Bureau and the COWRIE Board, detailing the findings of the research project COWRIE 2.0 EMF. The report is in two sections with a management overview in Section 1 and the majority of the material relating to the study within Section 2 which covers the technical aspects.
Note, some parts of this final report refer to documents produced during the course of the research project, namely: COWRIE 2.0 EMF Phase 2 Project Plan Update, First, Second and Third Quarterly Interim Reports and First and Second Progress Reports. These reports are held by COWRIE.