World Council for Nature

Wind turbines and marine mammals


17 sperm whales stranded on beaches in a vast offshore windfarm zone



Authorized translation by WCFN of an article in French published here:
Éoliennes et mammifères marins


These sperm whales, and three others, beached on the English shores of the Northern Sea; 12 others stranded in Germany and the Netherlands.



On one of the whales stranded in England, anti-nuclear activists wrote a slogan to white-wash the wind turbines seen in the background.

 


These whales were apparently members of the same pod, moving as shown above.

“Strandings are common in the North Sea but there hasn’t been one on this scale ‘in decades’, according to experts”.
The article, the map and more pictures are in the Daily Mail

 


The 17 sperm whales died in areas of the North Sea that are saturated by sound and infrasound pollution emitted by ships and wind turbines. See the above map showing offshore wind farms, built, in construction or projected. Source: http://www.4coffshore.com/offshorewind/

 

Discussion
It could be that sick or ageing whales would seek refuge in very shallow waters at night, so as to sleep away from orcas (killer whales). Being pelagic species, they would be unaware of tides, and could wake up stranded on the sand. Sane specimens, on the other hand, could beach while fleeing toxic surroundings (water contaminated by chemicals) or other unbearable conditions (noise and infrasound).

Regardless, we know that noise and infrasound pollution may impair their feeding or navigation capabilities: “It is likely that acoustic masking by anthropogenic sounds is having an increasingly prevalent impact on animals’ access to acoustic information that is essential for communication and other important activities such as navigation and prey/predator detection” – (Clark et al., 2009) —> Acoustic masking in marine ecosystems

One way or another, there is little doubt that noise and infrasound emitted by offshore wind turbines further reduce marine mammals’ chances of survival. Pelagic fish could be affected as well. As for bottom dwellers, such as soles or crustaceans, an added disturbance comes from seismic vibrations transmitted from the rotors to the sea bed, up to 50 km away (and further still for mega turbines of, say, 8 MW) —> wind turbines emit “seismic noise”

 

P.S.: The number of sperm whales beached on North Sea shores these last few weeks has been updated to 29. —> Daily Mail Feb. 4, 2016

P.S. 2: Here is the podcast of an interview of the author by Dr Lori Kirshner of the Animals Today Radio Show