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Sonar for tracking fine scale seal movements around tidal turbines
Marine mammals forage in tidally energetic locations, which are of interest to the tidal energy industry. To understand the risks of collisions between wildlife and tidal turbines, fine-scale movements of animals around the rotor blades must be studied. Recent research has shown that harbour porpoises effectively avoid turbine rotors, but current technologies such as animal-borne tags can only monitor seal behaviours at a larger scale than is required. Development of the Marine Mammal High-Current Underwater Platform (HiCUP) – a combined sonar and hydrophone system – has allowed fine-scale 3D tracking of sound-producing animals (e.g. porpoise) and non-sound-producing animals (e.g. seals) around an operational tidal turbine in the Pentland Firth. Using bespoke movement detectors in the software PAMGuard, that extract tracks of interest, and manual review to assign a likely species identification, we have tracked marine animals around the turbine for 12 months. Animals identified to date include seals, fish, elasmobranchs, and birds. Approximately one seal was detected within 30m to the turbine per day; further analysis will allow us to understand animal presence in relation to environmental variables and track 3D movements in the water column.