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Main research question/goal
The construction and operation of offshore wind farms generates underwater noise. This research focuses on the effects of underwater noise on the behavior and physiology of fish eggs, larvae and juveniles, as well as whether tissue and hearing damage are caused by this noise. Target species are the commercially important cod (Gadus morhua), European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and sole (Solea solea). At the same time, the importance of the different sound parameters is examined. Studying the effects of underwater noise, e.g. due to offshore wind energy development, is essential for the development and application of mitigation measures in order to guarantee the welfare and survival of fish populations (and their associated fisheries).

Research approach
The research mainly consists of experiments, both in situ and under controlled lab conditions. We investigate the impact on different life stages and the life cycle of the target species that various sound parameters have as measured during pile-driving and the operation of several offshore wind farms. Fish eggs and larvae are exposed to different types of underwater noise in the lab and in situ. For the field experiments, we work in close collaboration with the offshore wind industry, as we carry out the experiments from the piling platform itself and from a RHIB that needs to approach very close to the piling activities.

The proposed research is a rather fundamental study, but with great relevance for economic and policy support. It requires expertise from different knowledge fields, i.e. underwater sound characteristics and behavior, the natural distribution, behavior and physiology of the target species, and the assessment of long-term effects at population level. This doctoral study will provide supporting advice to all economic activities that produce underwater noise (e.g. offshore energy development, fisheries, dredging, shipping, sand extraction) in order to reduce their impact on the marine ecosystem. This ecosystem approach is vital for the realization of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Funding provider(s)
IWT - Instituut voor de aanmoediging door wetenschap en technologie in Vlaanderen

External partner(s)
Beheerseenheid Mathematisch Model van de Noordzee
UGent - Fac. Ingenieurswetenschappen en Architectuur
UGent - Fac. Wetenschappen
Vlaams Instituut voor de zee
Effective start/end date1/12/1130/06/16

ID: 4145715