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SR is correct in that marine renewables are …

Comment posted Tourism industry says ‘Protect marine wildlife to protect our livelihoods’ by Dr Douglas McKenzie.

SR is correct in that marine renewables are likely to have minimal impact on marine life – at least in comparison with other technologies currently in use. This doesn’t mean we should be complacent – site selection still has to be rigorous and appropriate impact surveys made, however, a degree of balance is worthwhile.

Impacts of marine renewables are likely to be limited to short term sea bed disturbances caused by foundations and moorings. In operation, wave devices are unlikely to have much impact though entanglement of cetaceans in large arrays might be an issue.

In one’s mind’s eye, tidal generators might be visualised as giant mincers reducing pelagic marine species to chopped sushi but in fact the blades will revolve quite slowly and most species will be able to easily avoid them. Larger species (such as cetaceans, large sharks or seals) in danger of becoming stuck in the turbine’s orifice can be deflected by having appropriate mesh screens over the turbine. Noise is unlikely to be much of an issue – and certainly nothing compared with surface vessels (as any diver knows, large powered vessels make a tremendous racket under the water).

Offshore wind turbines aren’t likely to have any significant effects beyond the foundations.

SR is also correct in that fishing has a much larger and detrimental effect on marine biota. He is exaggerating a bit with his description of scallop dredging creating lifeless deserts but dredging activities are indeed the most harmful activity and I am surprised dredging hasn’t been more restricted given there are alternative and more environmentally friendly methods available.

Drilling for oil and gas is pretty harmful to the marine environment – though much less than it was in the early days when huge piles of drill cuttings would be allowed to develop under each rig smothering all the life under the rigs. That said, you do see unexpected effects. Platforms often harbour large populations of fish safe from fishing and the disturbance of the drilling sometimes encourages specialist species to colonise the area. But the overall impact is one of species loss in the vicinity of the platforms.

Nuclear stations (and some large coal fired stations) use sea water for cooling and these can cause localised thermal pollution. Ironically marine life tends to be more of a threat to nuclear stations than vice versa: jellyfish in particular can block the cooling water inlets forcing the plant to shut down.

I could go on but the long and the short of it is that all human activities impact on our oceans but renewables are likely to be at the bottom of the scale of impact rather than near the top.

Dr Douglas McKenzie also commented

  • There is quite a lot of research going on concerning this subject, eg:

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