New guidance published to help protect marine life around renewable energy projects

Researchers from the University of St Andrews have published new guidance to help protect dolphins and seals from new wave and tidal energy developments.

The University’s Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU), SMRU Consulting, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) have published new guidance on marine mammal surveying requirements at energy sites in Wales.

The new guidance will help plan in advance what data and information should be gathered to allow robust assessments of possible impact on marine mammals.

Welsh waters are home to species including bottlenose dolphins, porpoises and grey seals, all of which are protected under European legislation, which includes the provision of Special Areas of Conservation.

Traditional approaches to assessing risk to marine life, for example those used for large offshore wind projects, may not always deliver the useful information required to underpin environmental assessments.

“This new guidance will allow developers to take a proportionate and robust approach to the gathering of data required to underpin their environmental assessments to assure the safety of local sea mammal populations,” said Dr Carol Sparling from SMRU Consulting.

“This guidance will also allow developers to focus on specific risks presented by individual projects rather than the existing ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

Ceri Morris, Marine Mammal Specialist at NRW, added: “It is our duty to ensure that marine mammals such as dolphins, porpoises and seals in Wales are protected.

“This new guidance will give us more confidence that we have the best available information on marine mammal distribution and help us to understand how animals may interact with wave and tidal devices to inform our advice.”

Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, specializing in local government, transport and energy issues