TNO have released their new report on the assessment of different offshore developments impacting harbour porpoises in the Netherlands (published by the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment). SMRU Consulting were involved in this project by assisting TNO re-developing the interim PCoD model to fit in their assessments. The TNO report is entitled: Framework for assessing ecological and cumulative effects of offshore wind farms: Cumulative effects of impulsive underwater sound on marine mammals

There are a high number of planned developments in and around the Netherlands, the construction of which will produce underwater noise (e.g. from pile driving and seismic airgun surveys for oil and gas industries) that has the potential to disturb marine mammals. Given the large number of developments it was necessary to assess the accumulated effects of these developments and how they could impact entire populations. TNO developed a complete assessment protocol and as part of that assessment the interim PCoD model was used to estimate the possible effect of various piling operations on the harbour porpoise population in the Netherlands.

SMRU Consulting, alongside Prof. John Harwood at the University of St Andrews, were asked to run initial simulations through the interim PCoD model which were presented at an ecologists workshop. This led to the development of a range of simulations for various construction and survey scenarios that were then run through the PCoD model. These included scenarios for both the construction of wind farms and for seismic surveying in the North Sea.

The TNO report states:

“The Interim PCoD framework was developed in 2013 by SMRU Consulting and the University of Saint Andrews to predict the possible effects on marine mammal populations resulting from disturbance, damage to hearing and collisions as a result of the construction and operation of offshore renewable energy structures (including wind energy). As far as is known, this is the only instrument currently operational that establishes a quantitative link between disturbance and consequences for populations as a whole. That means that it is also the only instrument that can be used to determine the cumulative effects of disturbance by various types of activity.”

Dr Cormac Booth from SMRU Consulting says:

“This was a really cool piece of work to be involved in. TNO were able to provide great input information (e.g. good survey data  and their great noise propagation models to deliver robust estimates of numbers of disturbance) so the PCoD simulations were as accurate as could be for assessing the impacts to harbour porpoise. It was also great to work alongside TNO in a collaborative environment, to work towards a robust assessment.”

Read the full report here.

Check out more of SMRU Consultings PCoD work: