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East Anglia ONE North Offshore Windfarm
Received 06 December 2019
From Whale and Dolphin Conservation
“The North Sea offers a variety of rich cetacean habitats. Whilst gaps still remain in our knowledge of the cetaceans which live year round or migrate through our waters, East Anglia ONE North offshore wind farm lies within the Southern North Sea Special Area of Conservation (SNS SAC) an area of importance for harbour porpoise. Due to its location in the SAC, it is likely that the construction of East Anglia ONE North will negatively impact the harbour porpoise population of the SAC, particularly in-combination. These impacts have the potential to be long-term. As an SAC the Southern North Sea is a strictly protected site, designated under the EC Habitats Directive, with a specific Conservation Objective of “To avoid deterioration of the habitats of the harbour porpoise or significant disturbance to the harbour porpoise, thus ensuring that the integrity of the site is maintained and the site makes an appropriate contribution to maintaining Favourable Conservation Status for the UK harbour porpoise.” (JNCC, 2017). WDC is particularly concerned about the potential for cetaceans to be disturbed and displaced, including by the noise introduced into their environment. Noise will be produced throughout the life of the development, including construction, operation and decommissioning, and from associated vessel traffic. East Anglia ONE North is likely to impact cetaceans, and the harbour porpoise population supported by the SNS SAC in ways ranging from collisions to habitat displacement due to the effects of noise and disturbance. Our concerns are particularly related to noise especially during the construction phase as this is the stage where there is the greatest potential to negatively impact cetaceans. Noise pollution has the potential to displace animals and populations, interfere with normal behaviour and, at very high intensities, be physically damaging. All cetaceans are offered ‘strict protection’ under the Habitats Directive. Research has shown that pile driving during construction causes behavioural changes in harbour porpoises which leave the area during construction and in majority instances did not later return to their usual numbers. The longest running study into the effects of windfarms on harbour porpoises shows that ten years later, the population has only recovered to 29% of the baseline level. Even where areas have been recolonised, it is not clear if these are the same animals returning or new animals moving into the area, or if the animals are using the area in the same way. Harbour porpoise feed almost continuously to meet energy needs and are therefore highly sensitive to disturbance. Loud noises, such as pile driving, can cause them to be displaced from potential important feeding grounds. Additionally harbour porpoise can lose 4% of their body weight in just 24 hours from starvation. Given the importance of the East Anglia ONE North area and the SNS SAC for harbour porpoise, most likely as prime foraging areas, displacement from the area could be very significant. The combined effects of these developments with other industries operating in the marine environment, such as shipping and oil and gas exploration, are also largely unknown. Yet it is important that cumulative and in-combination impacts be adequately considered and our understanding developed. WDC recommend for East Anglia ONE North that: • Foundations requiring piling are not used; • Further assessments are made on alternative foundations to fully understand the potential impacts on marine mammals, and prey species; • To apply effective noise-reducing measures where piles of any sort are driven.”