Q1 2018 Environmental Effects Monitoring Report

2018 First Quarter Monitoring Report

FORCE’s first quarter 2018 environmental effects monitoring (EEM) report is now online.

The report provides a summary of monitoring and data analysis completed at the FORCE site by both FORCE and Cape Sharp Tidal (CST) in the first quarter of 2018 (January 1st – March 31st, 2018). CST does not currently have a turbine deployed; however, an update on 2018 EEM planning and an operational update for CST is provided.

The design and completion of data collection and analysis is being conducted with academic and research partners, including the University of Maine, the Sea Mammal Research Unit Consulting (Canada), Envirosphere Consultants, Acadia University, Luna Ocean Consulting, JASCO Applied Science, Ocean Sonics, GeoSpectrum Technologies Inc., and Nexus Coastal Resource Management.

The first quarter of FORCE monitoring included 69 days of C-POD marine mammal data collection, 24 hours of hydro-acoustic fish surveys, three seabird surveys, as well as bi-weekly shoreline observations. This work bring cumulative totals beginning May 2016 to approximately 1,400 ‘C-POD days’, 264 hours of fish surveys, 11 days of lobster surveys, four marine noise surveys 27 seabird surveys, bi-weekly shoreline observations.

Last year’s initial fish data analysis completed by the University of Maine did not identify a significant effect of turbine deployment during 2016-2017, but more data is needed to strengthen this conclusion. Similarly, initial analysis by Sea Mammal Research Unit (Consulting) found no evidence that porpoise permanently avoided the site while a turbine was in operation, but there was a temporary decline during installation activities.

The EEM work supports FORCE’s ongoing mandate to collect and share data on with regulators, industry, the scientific community and the public to better understand if in-stream tidal energy can play a safe, viable role in Nova Scotia’s long-term energy mix.

Monitoring is scheduled to continue through 2018.

Links:

Q1 2018 environmental monitoring report (document)

All environmental monitoring reports to date (2009 to present)

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

Lobster monitoring:

  • FORCE contracted NEXUS Coastal Resource Management to conduct a lobster catchability study in support of its lobster-monitoring program. The goal of this study is to measure whether the presence of a turbine affects the number of lobster entering traps.
  • A catchability study was completed at the FORCE site in October – November 2017, while no turbine was deployed. This study provides baseline catchability rates in the absence of a turbine.
  • Initial results indicate that catchability rates are high in the FORCE site, with catch rates ranging from 1.00-20.17 kg trap-1. Catch rates declined slightly during the study period, likely in relation to increasing tidal velocities. The survey design consists of two concentric rings that increase in distance from where the turbine was located in 2016-2017.  Preliminary qualitative analyses indicated that there were no differences between treatment rings, or with direction from the turbine location (North, East, South, West).
  • The next lobster catchability study will take place to coincide with the timing of the survey completed in 2017. The 2018 survey is contingent on the presence of a turbine at the site, which is needed to fully evaluate the effects of in-stream tidal turbines on lobster catchability rates.

Fish monitoring:

  • FORCE contracted the University of Maine to analyze fish-monitoring data using a downward facing hydro-acoustic echosounder. UMaine has experience conducting similar monitoring programs for a tidal energy project in Cobscook Bay, Maine.
  • The goal of this program is to describe and quantify fish distributional changes that reflect behavioural responses to the presence of a deployed turbine.
  • Results to date have shown that the density of fish at turbine height was highly variable across tidal stage, time of year, and location within the FORCE site.
  • Preliminary findings suggest no significant effect of the turbine on the density of fish in the mid-field of the turbine or on fish vertical distributions, but more data collection during additional turbine deployments is needed evaluate impacts to fish. A report outlining these preliminary findings can be found in FORCE’s 2017 annual report, located at: fundyforce.ca/environment/monitoring
  • This work continued in Q1 2018 with a survey completed February 15th – 16th. This survey coincided with the operation of a subsea platform configured with similar instrumentation known as ‘FAST-3.’

Marine mammal monitoring:

  • FORCE contracted the Sea Mammal Research Unit Consulting (Canada) to complete data analysis relating to the deployment of passive acoustic monitors known as ‘C-PODs.’
  • The goal of this program is to detect changes in the distribution of the harbour porpoise in relation to operational in-stream turbines.
  • In 2016/2017, porpoises were detected on 98.4% of days, with presence varying by time of year, current speed, tidal height, time of day, and the lunar cycle. Initial results provide no evidence of permanent avoidance in the mid-field of the turbine, but there was a temporary decline in detection rate post turbine installation (41-46%), likely due to vessel activity. Tidal height was a more important factor in driving variation in porpoise abundance, with a 12-fold greater impact on detection rate than the presence of the turbine. A report outlining these preliminary findings can be found in FORCE’s 2017 Annual Report, located at: fundyforce.ca/environment/monitoring.
  • In 2018, five C-PODs were recovered in January and redeployed two weeks later following a period of annual maintenance. During this time, beacons were added to aid with re-location in the event of premature resurfacing. C-PODs will be recovered in May and re-deployed following battery replacement.
  • In addition, FORCE has continued its shoreline observation program for marine mammals.

Seabird monitoring:

  • FORCE’s goal is to understand whether a turbine causes displacement of surface-visible seabirds and marine mammals from habitual waters, and to identify changes in behaviour. This work is led by Envirosphere Consultants.
  • Initial results show seasonal peaks in water-associated birds in spring and fall, consistent with known migratory patterns of species of loons, cormorants, gulls, waterfowl, and alcids.
  • Initial results suggest no significant effect of turbine operations on seabird abundance, but a formal statistical analysis of the data will be performed in 2018. Three surveys have been completed to date in Q1 of 2018, and survey protocols will continue as were conducted in 2017.

Sound monitoring:

  • The goal of this program is to measure both ambient noise and noise generated by in-stream turbines for prediction of effects on marine life.
  • Initial results using drifting hydrophones indicate that the main sources of sound in the study area included sediment movement associated with tidal flow and nearby vessel activity.
  • Preliminary analyses indicated that sounds from the OpenHydro turbine were easily detectable above ambient sounds 650 m from the turbine, and were detectable with more sensitive signal processing to the farthest extent drifting hydrophone were deployed from the FORCE site (3 km). Sounds from the turbine were mostly in the range of 90-300 hz, but extended up beyond 10 khz.
  • Data collection during additional turbine deployments is needed to more fully characterize sounds from the turbine in the mid-field area (100 m – 1000 m), and verify predictions that sounds from in-stream turbines have minimal impacts on marine life. Additional drifter deployments are planned for 2018.

Other activities: Independent of EEM programs, FORCE also conducts and supports additional research efforts, including fish tagging efforts in collaboration with Acadia University and Ocean Tracking Network, radar projects, and subsea instrument platform deployments through the Fundy Advanced Sensor Technology (FAST) program.

The FAST-2 platform is currently in trials to test directional sensors to collect data from a specific target, including the face of a turbine. Sensors currently include a Tritech Gemini imaging sonar, dynamic mount to position the sonar, and subsea cabling to allow for real-time data collection. Testing began March 22nd, 2018, between the FORCE beach and Black Rock.

The FAST-3 platform was recovered on February 22nd and redeployed on March 28th, 2018 with two hydroacoustic sonars and various environmental sensors to monitor fish densities in the mid-field of the turbine. FORCE will complete a comparative analysis of data collected by bottom (FAST-3) and ship-mounted hydroacoustic sonars (used as part of FORCE’s fish EEMP) to evaluate the spatial and temporal representativeness of both instrument configurations and determine the degree to which results are corroborative. This project is supported by the Offshore Energy Research Association, the Province of Nova Scotia, and Natural Resources Canada.