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.

Marine Mammal Behavioral Response to Tidal Turbine Sound

Study Status: 
Completed
Princple Investigator Contact Information: 

Name: Brian Polagye

Email: bpolagye@uw.edu

Project Description: 

The sound emitted by tidal turbines overlaps with the generalized hearing ranges for marine mammals and may, consequently, affect marine mammal behavior. The primary goal of this project is to improve the understanding of how sound emitted by tidal turbines may affect marine mammal behavior, with the intent that such understanding may allow this environmental risk to be “retired” for initial demonstrations and arrays. A secondary project goal is to evaluate the efficacy of marine mammal observations from a shore-based vantage point as a method to detect change as a consequence of marine energy stressors. Three, two-week trials were conducted across spring, summer and autumn of 2017 during which vantage-point observations of marine mammals were made from land.. When pinnipeds were sighted, still images were taken. When harbor porpoise were sighted, focal follows using video were initiated. These data were later analyzed to estimate the location of animals sighted using photogrammetric techniques. For approximately half of each trial period, a boat was moored in the study area from which an underwater projector was used to play back tidal turbine sounds at a broadband source level of 158 dB re µPa @ 1 m. The other half of each trial period had no playbacks and was used as a control period. During the control and playback periods, ancillary data were collected in the study area near the sea floor (ambient noise, tidal velocity, and porpoise clicks) while weather and vessel tracks were recorded near the vantage-point station.

Funding Source: 

This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), under Award Number DE-EE0006385.

Location of Research: 

Admiralty Inlet, Puget Sound, Washington

Project Aims: 
  1. To improve the understanding of how sound emitted by tidal turbines may affect marine mammal behavior, with the intent that such understanding may allow this environmental risk to be “retired” for initial demonstrations and arrays
  2. To evaluate the efficacy of marine mammal observations from a shore-based vantage point as a method to detect change as a consequence of marine energy stressors
Project Progress: 

Completed

Key Findings: 

Harbor seals did not show a significant response to the simulated turbine noise, nor did harbor porpoise change their closest point of approach or change the direction/deviation of the paths during periods when the playback was occurring. While porpoise sightings and porpoise acoustic detections were significantly reduced during playback periods in the first two trials, the number of detections during the playback periods increased during the third trial. Similarly, the calculated distance from porpoises to the playback location suggests that harbor porpoises avoided an area around the playback location of approximately 300 m during Trial 1, which decreased to approximately 100 m in Trial 2, and disappeared in Trial 3. This could be an indication of habituation or increased tolerance, either to the playback sound or the vessel presence. Our finding of no significant effect of turbine noise on harbor seals contrast with the findings in a previous study by Hastie et al. (2017) conducted in United Kingdom waters.

Related Publications: 

Robertson, F.; Wood, J.; Joslin, J.; Joy, R.; Polagye, B. (2018). Marine Mammal Behavioral Response to Tidal Turbine Sound. Report by Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) and University of Washington. pp 65. https://tethys.pnnl.gov/publications/marine-mammal-behavioral-response-tidal-turbine-sound

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