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AERIAL SURVEYING


FEATURE SPONSOR


MARINE WILDLIFE SURVEYS FROM THE AIR


Ultra-high resolution aerial surveys have become the industry standard not just for birds, but also for marine mammals. From endangered monk seals and humpback whales in Hawaii, to bottlenose dolphins and harbour seals closer to home, the innovative surveys are revealing new data on the numbers, species and distribution of marine mammals.


BESPOKE EQUIPMENT


The surveys are carried out using a new generation of bespoke high resolution digital cameras fitted to special twin-engine survey aircraft. The aircraft fly a carefully planned pattern of flight lines over the proposed or constructed windfarm area, capturing thousands of images that are examined by experienced analysts.


The data captured in the images is being used by offshore windfarm developers and regulators both before and after construction, and recent independent research has confirmed the effectiveness of digital stills cameras for counting and identifying marine mammals.


These new cameras also work well in low light conditions, such as winter in the UK, North Sea and Baltic Sea, where many windfarms are operational, planned or under construction.


DATA USE


Data from pre-construction surveys is used for environmental impact assessments submitted during the process of applying for consent to build the windfarm. It can also provide baseline data against which future surveys can be compared.


“But for marine mammals, any avoidance tends to come during the construction phase of the windfarm, through the disturbance effect of the sound of underwater pile driving or drilling. Once the windfarm is in operation, however, the only sound underwater is usually a low buzz, which the animals commonly get used to quite quickly.”


With animals


spending a long time underwater and the surveys sampling a representative proportion of the windfarm area, it is impossible to photograph every marine mammal. However, extensive research has


generated correction factors that scientists can use to estimate the total numbers


Surveys during and after construction reveal how marine wildlife responds to the construction phase and how they behave in the longer term.


RESULTANT INFORMATION Dr Mark Rehfisch of survey specialists, APEM, explains: “The potential impacts of offshore windfarm developments appear to affect birds and marine mammals in almost opposite ways.


“For birds, most of the potential impacts come once the windfarm is up and running, in terms of whether or not they avoid the area.


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of animals based on the number photographed in the surveys.


SPECIES RECOGNITION


The species most often encountered in the waters around the UK and Germany, where APEM has carried out well over 500 surveys, are harbour porpoises, harbour seals, grey seals, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and white- beaked dolphins. But surveys around Hawaii captured more exotic species, such as the highly endangered Hawaiian monk seal.


APEM


www.hota.org


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