The OES-Environmental 2020 State of the Science Report: Environmental Effects of Marine Renewable Energy Development Around the World builds on and serves as an update and a complement to the 2013 Final Report for Phase 1 of OES-Environmental and the 2016 State of the Science Report. Its content reflects the most current and pertinent published information about interactions of marine renewable energy (MRE) devices and associated infrastructure with the animals and habitats that make up the marine environment. It has been developed and reviewed by over 60 international experts and scientists from around the world as part of an ongoing effort supported by the OES collaboration that operates within the International Technology Cooperation Framework of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The 2020 State of the Science Report consists of 14 chapters which can be downloaded as a whole or individually. Download Chapter 5: Risk to Animals from Electromagnetic Fields Emitted by Electric Cables and Marine Renewable Energy Devices here.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) occur naturally in the marine environment, while anthropogenic activities may create altered or additional sources of EMF, including those from MRE export cables. Cables are commonly buried, laid on the seafloor, or draped in the water column between devices in an array of floating MRE devices. EMF emissions are evaluated by measuring the magnetic and induced electrical fields emitted by cables and energized devices. Not all marine animals are able to detect EMFs; only a few marine species appear to have the sensory capabilities to sense and react to EMFs. The animals most likely to encounter and be affected by EMFs emitted from MRE systems are those that spend time in the vicinity of a source such as a power cable (most commonly sedentary benthic organisms), or those that spend a significant portion of their lives in the vicinity of an energized cable. Potential effects may include changes in marine animal behavior and movement in the vicinity of the EMF source, as well as long-term changes in growth or reproductive success. Laboratory and field studies have improved our understanding of the response of fish and invertebrates to EMFs, yet there is still little understanding of how pelagic species (e.g., pelagic sharks, marine mammals, fishes) might interact with and be affected by cables draped in the water column.
The evidence base to date suggests that the ecological impacts of EMFs emitted from power cables from single MRE devices or small arrays are likely to be limited. Field and laboratory studies suggest that marine animals living in the vicinity of MRE devices and export cables are not likely to be harmed by emitted EMFs.
The Short Science Summary for the chapter is available here.