Surveying marine mammals in nearby tidal energy development sites: a comparison

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The marine renewable energy sector continues to advance rapidly, but impacts on marine receptors, such as marine mammals, remain incompletely understood. Estimating absolute density of marine mammals is a common requirement for consenting and post-consent monitoring but numerous factors may prevent collection of sufficiently robust data to generate such estimates. The outcomes of two marine mammal survey campaigns in adjacent waters in south-western Scotland and Northern Ireland were compared. Both sites were 57 km apart and subjected to comparable environmental conditions. In the West of Islay site (SW Scotland), very small numbers of harbour porpoises (n = 12 sightings) were detected over 21 surveys, whilst at the Fair Head site (NI), many more porpoises were detected (n = 70 sightings over 13 surveys to date; survey programme ongoing). Final density estimates were therefore far less robust for the West of Islay site. Harbour porpoises appeared significantly more abundant at the Fair Head site despite the short distance between the two sites. Such spatial heterogeneity in porpoise abundance raises questions about the utility of surveying very low-density areas. Development of cost-effective, flexible, achievable, and scientifically robust surveying strategies should be a priority of both developers and regulators.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 11th European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference 6-11th Sept 2015, Nantes, France
Place of PublicationNantes
PublisherTechnical Committee of the European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)2309-1983
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Tidal energy
  • Marine mammals
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Survey design
  • Methods
  • Monitoring


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