National Physical Laboratory

Marine mammal detector characterisation

NPL's Open-Water Facility at Wraysbury has characterised a marine mammal detection system, which will allow for improved assessment of noise created by construction of offshore wind farms.

Wraysbury Open-Water Facility
Wraysbury open-water facility

The Challenge

There is increasing interest in the effect of man-made noise on marine life, in particular marine mammals.

As a result, environmental impact assessments for offshore operations typically require monitoring of radiated construction noise, as well as passive acoustic monitoring to detect the presence of vocalising marine mammals.

Scottish company Ecologic Ltd, who specialise in addressing marine mammal management and conservation issues, contacted NPL to refine their passive acoustic monitoring system.

The Solution

During recent construction of a wind farm situated off the UK's east coast, NPL measured the underwater noise radiated by piling construction.

Whilst Ecologic primarily use their detection system to monitor the presence of marine mammals, the recordings also capture the noise that is created by the construction work.

NPL has ensured that these recordings can be properly used to assess the levels of construction noise by characterising Ecologic's system for quantitative measurements over the range of frequencies generated by the piling construction.

The Impact

Jonathan Gordon of Ecologic Ltd said NPL's work was "enormously helpful in enabling us to move from largely qualitative monitoring for marine mammal vocalisations towards a more acoustically quantitative approach where we can have real confidence in the performance of our systems over a range of frequencies and can reliably quote the received levels at our hydrophones. It immediately revealed some unexpected response characteristics in one of our hydrophones which was compromising an ongoing project and we've now been able to take actions to remedy this."

The potential now exists for NPL to work with Ecologic and University of St Andrews to provide both aspects of the environmental impact assessment during future offshore wind farm construction projects.

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Last Updated: 1 Nov 2018
Created: 8 Dec 2008


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