SMRU Consulting has a wide range of experience in providing expertise and services to the marine renewable energy industry with respect to marine mammals and basking sharks. We are uniquely placed to provide advice on the best available technologies and techniques for monitoring and mitigation, and have access to emergent technologies and bespoke solutions should they be required.
In addition to our commercial experience, our academic excellence and global profile in marine mammal biology and research will provide regulators, statutory advisers and other stakeholders with the confidence that any concerns relating to impacts on marine mammals will be dealt with robustly and appropriately. Our services have included expert marine mammal expert advice, technical review and monitoring services to a number of offshore wind, tidal and wave developments.
Some example projects are summarised below:
- Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay: We are working with TLSB on the development of their marine mammal monitoring and mitigation strategy. This includes a range of different activities from helping them agree their adaptive management strategy with regulators to development and feasibility work exploring technological solutions for implementing their strategy.
- Tidal Energy Ltd Deltastream: We delivered a feasibility study to provide options for near field monitoring for marine mammals to meet the conditions of TEL’s Marine Licence, provide ongoing marine mammal monitoring advice and support to the developer and provide input into the Environmental Monitoring Committee.
- FORCE Monitoring: SMRU Consulting North America partnered with Acadia University to collect baseline acoustic monitoring data and to determine the potential near-field effects of tidal in-stream energy conversion devices on odontocetes. The goals of this project were to determine the activity levels of porpoises and dolphins in the Minas Passage turbine demonstration area and to compare this activity to a control site.
- Minesto collision risk model development & assessment: We delivered a unique collision risk assessment and used the “iPCoD” mode to determine the potential for marine mammals to collide with the Minesto device. Through SMRU Consulting Europe’s our rigorous review and assessment of Minesto MMO datasets, we were able to assist Minesto in their effort to run the device unmitigated 24/7 at their Strangford test-site and received consent for their Holyhead Deep site.
- Scottish Government Demonstration Strategy: This study developed and tested innovative new technology for the detection and measurement of marine mammal behaviour around tidal turbines. The project has developed monitoring systems which are capable of the detection and tracking of seals, porpoises and dolphins underwater in 3D and is currently being deployed at the MeyGen array site in the Pentland Firth.
With the expansion of both fixed-bottom and floating offshore wind industry around the world, SMRU Consulting has spent the last decade delivering expert advice to developers and regulators to ensure the industry develops sustainably. The wide range of potential impacts on marine mammals from the construction, operation and decommissioning phases of offshore wind projects has lead to SMRU Consulting establishing a lead role advising this industry.
Some select offshore wind experience is summarised below:
- Post consent monitoring at UK offshore wind farms: We are carrying out several studies for individual developers looking at the impacts of offshore wind farm construction and operation on marine mammal populations. This includes harbour seal telemetry study at Race Bank OWF in the Wash, and harbour seal pupping surveys in the wash for the Dudgeon OWF. We are also providing marine mammal and noise monitoring advice services to DONG Energy for Hornsea One.
- Impact assessment services for several UK Round 2 and 3 and Scottish Territorial Offshore windfarms including: Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd and Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd, Triton Knoll R2 Wind Farm, European Offshore Wind Development Centre, Forth and Tay Offshore Wind Farm, Argyll Array Offshore Wind Farm and Navitus Bay Wind Park.
- European Offshore Wind Development Centre Research: As part of a scientific research programme is hosted at the EOWDC, we are working with SMRU to improve the understanding of bottlenose dolphin ranging patterns along the east coast of Scotland. The data will be integrated with data from intensive sampling in the Moray Firth, through ongoing collaboration with Prof Paul Thompson from the University of Aberdeen Lighthouse Field Station in Cromarty.
- Use of acoustic deterrent devices to mitigate impacts from pile driving: We reviewed the use of ADDs as marine mammal mitigation measures during pile driving. The report provides recommendations on the use of deterrent devices and recommendations for field tests of ADDs for effective prevention of injury to marine mammals during pile driving.
- Dounreay Tri Floating Wind EIA: We authored the Marine Mammals chapter for the Hexicon Dounreay Tri Floating Wind ES which uses a novel platform and mooring system that doesn’t require pile driving.
Along with tidal energy, the expansion of wave energy has resulted in a number of developments in recent years. As with other marine industries, a number of project elements pose risks to marine mammals and as such, SMRU Consulting has established a role in advising and contributing to the environmental impact assessment process.
Our wave energy projects to date are summarised below:
- Wave & Tidal Position papers: Bringing together an academic research base and the marine renewable energy sector including regulators and policy-makers, we produced a position paper which reviewed key studies and provided a summary of the current state of knowledge regarding potential environmental impacts associated with marine renewables and marine mammals.
- Marine mammal monitoring guidance: We authored the Cetaceans, Basking Sharks, and Seals volume of the “Guidance on Survey and Monitoring in Relation to Marine Renewables Deployments in Scotland”. Our expertise showcased options and detailed protocols for the conduct of site characterisation surveys and impact monitoring programmes for Wave and Tidal marine renewables developments.
- Marwick Head wave farm: We worked with Scottish Power Renewables to provide a Scoping report of marine mammals present around the waters of Orkney and the Mainland where Marwick Head’s wave farm site is.
- Aegir wave farm: We provided developed the EIA strategy for the Aegir wave farm off Shetland including a baseline review of marine mammal relevant data and a screening of potential impacts for EIA and HRA and presented a case for a judicious monitoring programme to Marine Scotland (Science and MSLOT) and Scottish Natural Heritage.
- Site characterization guidance: SMRU Consulting, working with NRW and experts from SMRU and SAMS developed a new set of guidance on marine mammal surveying requirements at wave and tidal stream energy sites in Wales.
Management of our coasts and seas is becoming increasingly important as a wider range of industries and users compete for space and wildlife and environmental concerns have to be taken into account. As marine spatial planning becomes more routine, the requirement for sound strategic advice based on the latest scientific data is vital.
SMRU Consulting provides input to Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), advice on marine mammal survey and monitoring, development of risk assessment frameworks, and input to appropriate assessments to assist government with decision making in relation to marine development. In North America, we assisted NOAA in the NRDA as part of the exploration of the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on endangered marine life such as bottlenose dolphins.
Some example project experience is summarised below:
- Natural Resources Wales Guidance for survey and monitoring of marine mammals: This report provides a framework for assessing risk to marine mammals from wave and tidal stream developments and guidance on how to tailor survey effort to provide better information to inform impact assessments. The step-by step guide helps provide a ‘roadmap’ for making decisions about the need for, and type of, pre-application surveys.
- Crown Estate Monitoring Guidance for marine mammals: We produced monitoring guidance for marine mammals at marine renewable energy developments. This work examined the various approaches available to developers of marine renewable energy projects for collecting data about marine mammal distribution and abundance in relation to offshore development. It includes assessment of the statistical power available per unit cost and the types of uncertainties expected to exist in the data, making a list of recommendations for developers, regulators and advisers.
- Offshore Wind Farm Post consent monitoring review: We worked with Fugro EMU, the National Physics Laboratory (NPL) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to conduct a comprehensive review of the post consent monitoring carried out at all consented UK wind farms. The objective was to examine how the data collected during post-consent monitoring at offshore wind farms have provided evidence for impacts and to review whether the post-consent monitoring was appropriate and fit for purpose and make recommendations for future monitoring.
- Interim PCoD framework: Working with John Harwood we developed a statistical model, the iPCoD approach, for assessing and quantifying the potential consequences for marine mammal populations of any disturbance and/or injury that may result from offshore energy developments.
- Development of Cook Inlet Beluga PCoD Framework: Noise is a stressor of high concern to Cook Inlet beluga and recovery plans include the need for assessment tools addressing whether noise is likely to be limiting recovery of the CI beluga population. We conducted an expert elicitation and adapted the interim PCoD framework for beluga whales.
SMRU Consulting has worked across a number of marine infrastructure projects around the world. We provide specialist advise to developers and contractors, contribute to impact assessments and design and implement robust marine mammal monitoring and mitigation programs.
Some example projects are summarised below:
- Port Metro Vancouver – Roberts Bank Terminal 2: We are in the process of several multi-year desktop and field marine mammal studies for the Port Metro Vancouver EIS and follow-up efforts. These include: description of habitat use, behavioural responses, masking and PCoD of Southern Resident Killer whales (SRKWs). We also worked on ambient noise monitoring and other PAM efforts.
- Queensferry Crossing Construction: In partnership with St Andrews Instrumentation Ltd, we provided underwater noise monitoring at the site of the Queensferry Crossing Bridge in the Forth Estuary to protect Atlantic salmon and lamprey who spawn in the estuary. We also provided marine mammal mitigation and site-specific noise monitoring during blasting and pile-driving activities.
- Invergordon Queen’s Dock extension: We delivered a comprehensive cetacean mitigation program including real-time Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) mitigation for harbour porpoises and bottlenose dolphins and underwater noise levels. This system is the first of its kind, delivering a new level of mitigation capability – during all weather conditions, day or night.
- Wylfa Newydd Site Development: We are advising on design options and suitable marine mammal mitigation options for a port development as well as coordinating monthly visual and PAM surveys to obtain data for baseline characterisation.
SMRU Consulting has been actively involved in various projects within the defence sector, both with clients and directly with national defence departments. We strive to provide the best possible outcomes for our clients in what can be challenging and diverse environments. Our work furthers the development of environmental impact and risk assessments for marine mammal populations and the specifically in the development of real time acoustic risk assessment through our PCoD tools.
Specific project experience includes:
- PCoD Lite: We explored how the interim PCoD framework could be developed to be applied to US Navy situations. We used this adapted iPCoD framework to forecast the potential effects of disturbance associated with Navy exercises on Blainville’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon densirostris) and sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), Bahamas, and at the Hawaii Range Complex (HRC), Hawaii.
- PCoD+: The overall objective of this project is to overcome the most important impediments that have limited the implementation of the PCoD framework. PCoD+ is a 3 year project (2016-2019) funded by the Office of Naval Research to build upon all the PCoD works to date.
- Behavioural Response Studies – Bahamas: We conducted a behavioural response study, alongside a large team of international researchers, to investigate the impacts of mid-frequency active sonar on beaked whales in the Bahamas. It was necessary for the study to be precautionary in its approach as there had to be a balance between the intention not to harm the experimental subjects (beaked whales) and the critical need to obtain empirical data.
- Cook Inlet Passive Acoustic Monitoring: We conducted a trial of the Decimus® system in Eagle River as part of a multi-year effort led by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), the US Army and Air Force and the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML), to explore applied real-time passive acoustic monitoring on Cook Inlet beluga whales.
SMRU Consulting provides robust, environmentally sound science and research services to the Oil & Gas industry. We recognize the need to characterize uncertainty associated with Oil & Gas activities from E&P through to decommissioning. Our scientists are able to carry out marine mammal risk assessments using the latest acoustic response data. We are also able to devise bespoke research projects to answer questions posed through the consenting process regarding potential impacts on marine mammals, from the individual up to population scales.
Examples of our projects to date include:
- Gulf of Mexico Risk Assessment Framework (Phase 1 and 2): We worked with Southall Environmental Associates, Inc., Marine Acoustics, Inc., and Loggerhead Instruments to develop an analytical framework for assessing the potential effects of noise from seismic airgun surveys on marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico (GOMEX). The objective of the EWG was to develop an explicit analytical framework that incorporated conventional analytical methods with novel approaches to assess potential acute effects of anthropogenic sound sources on marine mammals.
- Low visibility technology review: We investigated which low visibility technologies or combinations of technologies can best meet the requirements for mitigation monitoring of marine mammal and other species during industrial seismic surveys (and other E&P activities).
- Autonomous monitoring and mitigation technology review: We reviewed systems for real-time monitoring for timely decision making during operational environmental risk management and permit compliance. This included Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) (e.g. powered aircraft, gliders etc.) and Autonomous Underwater and Surface Vehicles (AUV/ASV) such as powered underwater or surface craft, wave or wind powered vehicles and drifting sensor packages.
- AVADECAF: We worked with experts from CREEM and SMRU to review and assess the viability and value of the use of PAM for determining marine mammal density over the life cycle of offshore field developments. This covered existing and developing PAM systems and the current state of biological knowledge required for implementing DECAF (Density Estimation for Cetaceans from passive Acoustic Fixed sensors) methodology will lead to recommendations on how to best set up a comparative field study and will reveal knowledge gaps and areas for further development and research.
- Tuck Inlet Passive Acoustic Monitoring: We conducted PAM surveys for harbour porpoise and humpback whales during LNG geophysical surveys in Tuck Inlet, British Columbia. In addition we trained Golder MMOs in PAM survey design, Decimus deployment and monitoring, and in the use of PAMGuard software for the analysis of PAM detections.