OES-Environmental distributes metadata forms (questionnaires) to solicit information from researchers around the world who are exploring the environmental effects of marine renewable energy. This page provides a description and contact information related to the research. Content is updated on an annual basis.

COWRIE 2.0 Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Phase 2

Study Status: 
Princple Investigator Contact Information: 

Name: Andrew B. Gill

Email: a.b.gill@cranfield.ac.uk

Project Description: 

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 know 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 designate 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?

Funding Source: 

Funded by Coalition of Offshore Wind Research into the Environment (COWRIE) Contract No.: COWRIE-EMF-1-06, Ref: EP-2054-ABG

Location of Research: 

Ardtoe, United Kingdom

Project Aims: 

To determine the response of electromagnetic sensitive organisms to controlled electromagnetic fields (EMF) with the characteristics and magnitude of EMF associated with offshore wind farm power cables.

Project Progress: 


Key Findings: 
  • There is evidence that the benthic elasmobranchs species studied did respond to the presence of EMF emitted by a sub-sea cable.
  • However, this response was variable within a species and also during times of cable switch on and off, day and night.
  • The Kernel Density Probability Function (KDPF) analysis showed that all the fish species moved throughout the mesocosms regardless of whether there was any EMF present or not. There was a predominance of movement towards the offshore side of the mesocosms.
  • Analysis of the overall spatial distribution of fish within the mesocosm was non-random and one species, S. canicula (the Small-spotted Catshark) was more likely to be found within the zone of EMF emission during times when the cable was switched-on.
  • The fine scale analysis was limited by the tracking technology available which meant the number of fish individuals studied was low. However, there were differences found for some individuals of Rays and Catshark in terms of their rate of movement around the zone of EMF emission when the cable was switched on.
  • There appeared to be a response by the Rays of being nearer to the cable when it was turned on; however a similar response was found in the control mesocosm. This highlights the importance of including the control in the study. But their Step Length was higher once the cable was switched on.
  • Taking the overall and fine scale analyses together suggests that the Catsharks will at times be found more of the time near to the energized cable and they will be moving less than during times when the cable is not switched on.
  • There was no depth related movement during the time that the cable was on or off.
  • There did not appear to be any differences in the fish response by day or night or over time.
  • Whilst the results clearly showed individual differences to the EMF there were insufficient occurrences of individuals responding consistently over time for any determination of habituation. Further study on more individuals would be required.
Related Publications: 

Gill, A.; Huang, Y.; Gloyne-Philips, I.; Metcalfe, J.; Quayle, V.; Spencer, J.; Wearmouth, V. (2009). COWRIE 2.0 Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Phase 2: EMF Sensitive Fish Response to EM Emissions from Sub-sea Electricity Cables of the Type used by the Offshore Renewable Energy Industry. Report by Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), Centre for Intelligent Monitoring Systems (CIMS), Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies Ltd (CMACS), Cranfield University, and University of Liverpool. pp 128.

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