Subsea cables have a long history in telecommunication services which started at the end of the 19th century with the deployment of the first telegraph cable across the English Channel. Today the demand for fast communication links is still growing rapidly and leads to a flurry of cable laying activities around the globe. But there is a second aspect of subsea cables gaining more importance: transmission of electric power. Power transmission via subsea cables is realized to interconnect terrestrial grids, to supply power to offshore facilities or to feed power supplied from renewable energy sources offshore such as wind and waves into terrestrial grids. Numerous subsea cables can already be found in our oceans and there will be a lot more in the years to come (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2).
Potential problems related to the deployment of subsea cables of different types are raising concerns not only among environmentalists. For that reason, Germany's Federal Agency of Nature Conservation (BfN) has commissioned this literature review to collect up-to-date information on potential effects of installation, operation and decommissioning of cables in the marine environment. Mitigation measures and requirements of effective monitoring programs are discussed. As a result, a better guidance on development of offshore industries considering environmental aspects and nature conservation issues is expected.