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Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Reports

Formal report series, containing results of research and monitoring carried out by Marine Scotland Science


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EMEC Fall of Warness Tidal Test Site: Wildlife Observations Project Annual Report

Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Vol 5 No 7

A key concern expressed by policy makers, regulators and environmental stakeholders about deployment of marine energy devices in open waters relates to the possibility of negative impacts they may have on marine mammals and diving birds. The potential for direct collision with such devices, or harmful effects caused by their presence, including the potential for displacement of marine wildlife from habitual waters, are issues which need to be addressed. In order to get as accurate a picture as possible about the presence and behaviour of marine wildlife in the vicinity of operating devices, data needs to be collected both underwater and at the sea surface. The current wildlife observation programme underway at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney gathers surface-visible wildlife information across EMEC’s grid-connected and nursery test sites, and the data gathered can be used to inform regulatory decisionmaking, as well as in guiding developers’ device-specific wildlife monitoring programmes. Activities of the wildlife observation programme underway at EMEC are overseen by the EMEC Monitoring Advisory Group (MAG), whose membership includes representatives from Marine Scotland Science, Marine Scotland Licencing Operations Team, Marine Scotland Compliance, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Government, and the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews. The Fall of Warness wildlife observation project commenced in July 2005, with Scottish Government funding current contract. During the period 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014 a total of 909 hours of observations were completed. Observations at the site for this reporting period have shown seasonal peaks at the site in grey and harbour seal abundances corresponding with pupping seasons, which is mirrored in the data collected to date at the site. The majority of cetacean sightings during this reporting period have been white-beaked dolphins, whereas typically the most sighted cetacean is harbour porpoise. A typically diverse range of marine birds has also been observed, although for several species numbers in April and May 2013 fell below the mean. This could be due to the enduring winter of 2012/2013 and resultant late spring experienced in Orkney as was the case for the rest of the UK. Detailed analysis of the data collected is outwith the scope of this project; however a separate data analysis project, funded by Marine Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, has been established to carry out an in-depth analysis of the data.

European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC). 2014. EMEC Fall of Warness Tidal Test Site: Wildlife Observations Project Annual Report. Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Vol 5 No 7. Edinburgh: Scottish Government, 37pp
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Spatial / Geographical Coverage Location
Temporal Coverage
2013-03-31 to 2014-03-30
UK Open Government Licence (OGL)
Data Dictionary

The methodology involved recording numbers, location and behaviour of individual animals for 20 hours per week throughout the year. The observer’s instructions were to undertake watches across a variety of wave and tidal states, times of day, and weather conditions, but a formal watch system was not specified. Full details of these variables were recorded along with the species sighting data. In 2010, EMEC and SMRU Ltd produced documentation to accurately reflect the methodology used at the site to facilitate recording the presence, distribution and behaviour of marine mammals and marine birds. At this point a formal watch rota was introduced in order to ensure a full range of sampling across available watch times. This methodology is available to download from the Marine Scotland Interactive website. The formal methodology with defined scheduling of watches was implemented in April 2011; however the formal scheduling of watches proved to be unsuccessful in terms of watch attainment due to the conditions often experienced at the site. In May 2011 the formal watch rota was relaxed, and whilst the observers do work to a target watch rota, flexibility in the watch times allows for provision of good temporal and tidal coverage in the observations programme.

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Marine Scotland Science Enquiries
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