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Environment Research report

Harbour porpoises avoid tidal turbines, finds new study

A new study published by the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews finds that harbour porpoises effectively evade an operational tidal turbine at the Meygen tidal farm in Scotland.

Over an 18-month period, the research team monitored harbour porpoises’ movements around the SIMEC Atlantis’ tidal turbine. The animals were found to avoid the turbine rotors, which suggests that they were able to detect the turbine and the supporting structure. Only one individual passed through the rotor swept area, but even this occurred when the turbine was stationary.

This effective evasion indicates that the risk of collision between porpoises and tidal turbines might be even lower than previously estimated.

The results are significant, as the information about animal behaviour close to operational turbines is needed to inform regulators of the real impacts of ocean energy technologies. This research brings the sector one step closer to understanding the actual risks of deployments and to reducing the uncertainties that now complicate consenting.

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