FORCE: Tidal turbine had no notable effect on marine life

Cape Sharp Tidal’s turbine in the Bay of Fundy was found to have no significant effect on fish and marine mammals while being in operation during the first half of 2017, according to the latest FORCE environmental report.

The Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE) released its 2017 annual environmental effects report which contains operational summaries and preliminary analyses from third-party researchers.

FORCE’s 2017 monitoring program included 130 hours of hydro-acoustic fish surveys, 11 days of lobster surveys using 48 traps, 16 seabird surveys and four marine noise surveys, as well as other data collection work.

Monitoring activities took place in relation to an operational in-stream tidal turbine from Cape Sharp Tidal for the first half of 2017 which continued after the turbine’s retrieval in June the same year.

Initial fish data analysis completed by the University of Maine did not identify a significant effect of turbine deployment during the period, but more data is needed to strengthen this conclusion, FORCE said.

“Preliminary findings suggest no significant effect of the turbine on the density of fish in the mid-field of the turbine or on fish vertical distributions, but more data collection during turbine operation is needed. Hydroacoustic surveys will continue approximately 1-2 times per season in 2018,” it is stated in the report.

Similarly, initial analysis by SMRU Consulting (North America) found no evidence that porpoise permanently avoided the site while a turbine was in operation, but there was a temporary decline during installation activities.

“Initial results provide no evidence of permanent avoidance in the mid-field of the turbine, but there was a temporary decline in detection rate post turbine installation (41-46%), likely due to vessel activity. Tidal height was a more important factor in driving variation in porpoise abundance, with a 12-fold greater impact on detection rate than the presence of the turbine, “ the report reads.

FORCE said the annual monitoring report on fish, marine mammals, and seabirds underwent review by its environmental monitoring advisory committee (EMAC).

The data in the report summarizes the work conducted by University of Maine, SMRU Consulting (North America), Envirosphere Consultants, Acadia University, Luna Ocean Consulting, JASCO Applied Scientists, Ocean Sonics, Nexus Coastal Resource Management, and Geospectrum.

The environmental effects monitoring work, which will continue throughout 2018, supports FORCE’s ongoing mandate to collect and share data on with regulators, industry, the scientific community and the public to better understand if in-stream tidal energy can play a safe, viable role in Nova Scotia’s long-term energy mix.