UK: Gannets and Offshore Renewables

With European member states committed to obtaining 20% of their energy from renewables by 2020, the number of offshore wind, wave and tidal developments is increasing, potentially putting pressure on marine life.

Seabirds could be affected in many ways, including through loss of foraging habitat, and collision with wind turbines. In a new study by the University of Liverpool, BTO and Alderney Wildlife Trust, GPS tags were deployed to examine how breeding Gannets on Les Etacs, Alderney, used their marine environment in early June 2011. The results showed that an individual’s foraging movements on consecutive trips away from the colony were consistent in direction and maximum distance travelled. Gannets visited nine sites earmarked for offshore renewables, suggesting these birds could be affected by development in these areas. Furthermore, these sites fell in three different territorial waters – those of France, the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands – illustrating how the impact of such developments needs to be considered at an international level for highly mobile species.

As data were only collected for up to five days per bird, Gannets’ movements over the course of the breeding season (and indeed the year) could bring them into contact with an even greater number of offshore developments. Since tracking technology is becoming cheaper, longer lasting, more accurate and easier to use on a wide range of species, such studies could form an integral part of the environmental impact assessment process for marine renewable developments.


Press release, November 02, 2012

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