Researchers placed trackers on harbour and grey seals along the British and Dutch North Sea coasts and monitored them using GPS.
Some of the seals were more than happy to forage for food around the Alpha Ventus wind farm off Germany's northeastern coast and Sheringham Shoal east of England. The seals seem to deliberately seek out and forage in the wind farms, where they swam systematically and in straight lines in a sort of grid pattern between the turbines.
New hunting grounds
"New hunting grounds have arisen as the wind turbine foundations attract fish. This is confirmed by studies carried out at Vattenfall's offshore wind farms, such as Lillgrund in the Baltic Sea and Horns Rev and Egmond ann Zee in the North Sea," says Jesper Kyed Larsen, environmental expert at Vattenfall Continental/UK BU Renewables.
"The foundations for the offshore turbines work as artificial reefs where marine wildlife such as mussels and crustaceans thrive. The increase in foraging opportunities and the protection provided by the turbines create good living conditions for certain species of fish that the seals hunt."
The findings in the research study are consistent with observations made at wind farms in Horns Rev in the North Sea according to leading researchers at the Department of Bioscience at Aarhus University in Denmark.
Funded by Vattenfall
Vattenfall funds research on the offshore wind farms and the environment through the Vattenfall Nordic Wind R&D programme and Vattenfall Continental/UK Renewables, in order to better understand how the environment is affected and how any negative effects can be minimised.
"We especially focus on the issue of underwater noise and the development of suitable noise-mitigation systems for pile-driving at foundation sites, which can have a detrimental impact on marine wildlife," says Sara McGowan, coordinator for environmental research within the Vattenfall Nordic Wind R&D programme.