Marine and hydrokinetic energy (MHK) and offshore wind devices are being developed and deployed in U.S. and international waters. Electric current flowing through subsea transmission cables associated with these devices will generate electromagnetic fields (EMF), which may interact with, and potentially impact, marine fishes. Some marine fishes can detect electric and/or magnetic fields and use them to navigate, orientate, and sense prey, mates and predators. Over the past five years there have been multiple comprehensive reviews and studies evaluating the potential vulnerability of marine fishes to EMF produced by MHK devices. Most documented effects involve sub-lethal behavioral responses of individual fish when in close proximity to EMF (e.g., fish being repelled by or attracted to fields). These reviews reach conclusions that the current state of research on this topic is still in its infancy and evaluations of potential impacts are associated with great uncertainty. A variety of MHK technologies are likely to be considered for deployment offshore of the Hawaiian Islands, and there is a need to be able to better predict and assess potential associated environmental impacts. The goal of this study was to provide a complementary piece to these previous reviews (e.g., Normandeau et al. 2011) by focusing on marine fish species in the Hawaii region. We compiled the relevant available information, then prioritized fish species as candidates for various paths of future research. To address this, we first developed a list of Hawaii Region Focal Species, which included fishes that are more likely to be sensitive to EMF. We then compiled species-specific information available in the literature on their sensitivity to EMF, as well as life history, movement and habitat use information that could inform an analysis of their likelihood of encountering EMF from subsea cables associated with MHK devices. Studies have only documented EMF sensitivity in 11 of the marine fish species in this region. There was also relatively little detailed information on fish movement and habitat use patterns for most of the focal species. Our last objective was to develop recommendations for research needs to close the important knowledge gaps. We describe species-independent baseline research that primarily consists of in situ quantification of EMF generated by MHK devices and undersea cables that can occur as pilot and commercial scale MHK devices are deployed in Hawaii. Then we propose a simple approach for prioritizing Hawaii Region Focal Species (ranked relative to each other) as candidates in multiple related research paths. The prioritization approach incorporates EMF sensitivity information with the likelihood of interacting with EMF generated undersea transmission cables associated with MHK devices. Finally, we discuss the types of research needed to help fill gaps in the scientific knowledge base for this region. These involve studies to better define species-specific EMF sensitivity thresholds under various environmental conditions, studies of life history, movement and habitat use patterns to improve our understanding of the likelihood and frequency fishes may be in the vicinity of EMF generated by subsea transmission cables, and studies of the potential for related population, community or ecosystem impacts. Many of these studies can and should occur opportunistically as pilot and commercial scale MHK devices are deployed in Hawaii.
Current Ability to Assess Impacts of Electromagnetic Fields Associated with Marine and Hydrokinetic Technologies on Marine Fishes in Hawaii
Title: Current Ability to Assess Impacts of Electromagnetic Fields Associated with Marine and Hydrokinetic Technologies on Marine Fishes in Hawaii
September 15, 2015
Document Number: OCS Study BOEM 2015-042
Claisse, J.; Pondella, D.; Williams, C.; Zahn, L.; Williams, J. (2015). Current Ability to Assess Impacts of Electromagnetic Fields Associated with Marine and Hydrokinetic Technologies on Marine Fishes in Hawaii. Report by Vantuna Research Group. pp 136.