Date Published: 8 November 2012

Proposed offshore energy developments in the English Channel might affect foraging gannets (threat to wildlife)

Individual gannets do not depend on specific feeding sites
Photo: Jill Pakenham. Source: Liverpool Univ Press Release
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Liverpool University scientists have tracked 15 northern gannets to learn more about their feeding habits and routes travelled. As a result of this research they found that proposed offshore renewable energy developments in the English Channel have the potential to affect the foraging behaviour of northern gannets from Alderney in the Channel Islands.

This is worrying news for those concerned about marine wildlife in general and gannets in particular. The study used GPS technology to track 15 northern gannets breeding on Les Etacs in North West Alderney to find out about their feeding habits and whether the routes they travelled could be affected by proposed English and French offshore energy developments. It found that in general gannets flew in the same direction and for the same distance but that they vary significantly in the amount of time they spend searching for food. This suggests that individual gannets do not depend on specific feeding sites.

Louise Soanes, from Liverpool University's School of Environmental Sciences, said

" We found that the area where the gannets travelled for food overlapped with nine sites earmarked for offshore marine energy developments which suggests that the feeding habits of these birds could be affected, as well as the potential for collision with wind turbine developments.

_ These sites also fell across three different territorial waters ? in the UK, France and the Channel Islands ? which has implications for international collaboration and cooperation.

GPS technology is a valuable technique that is becoming cheaper, longer lasting, more accurate and easier to use on a wide range of species. The work undertaken during this study shows the important role tracking technologies can play in determining how sea bird colonies would be affected by offshore developments.

The need for more energy sources of the types proposed is due in large part to EU regulations. EU directives require that Europe must achieve 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 which has led to an increase in the number of developments using offshore wind, tidal and wave technologies. Offshore developments require an Environmental Impact Assessment which use boat-based and aerial monitoring but do not routinely use tracking technologies

The next phase of this research is intended to find out what exactly the gannets use these areas for and how dependent the gannets are on these areas over the next three years. The purpose is to better understand how the proposed offshore energy developments might impact on gannet populations in the area.

Source: Liverpool University, England (UK) -

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