Environmental Effects Monitoring Program Quarterly Report January - March 2021

This report provides a summary of monitoring activities and data analyses completed at the FORCE site up to the end of the first quarter of 2021. In addition, it also highlights findings from international research efforts, previous data collection periods at the FORCE site, and additional research work that is being conducted by FORCE and its partners. This includes supporting fish tagging efforts with Acadia University and the Ocean Tracking Network, radar research projects, and subsea instrumentation platform deployments through the Fundy Advanced Sensor Technology (FAST) Program. Finally, the report presents details regarding future research and monitoring efforts at the FORCE test site. Due to the ongoing risk of COVID-19 transmission, marine operations are being conducted following guidelines with respect to social distancing and the use of face masks that were developed in consultation with information provided by NS public health. This includes work in support of the 2021 EEMP and the RAP program.

Key updates in this report include:

- In this first quarter of 2021, Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) Consulting Ltd. provided their 4th year final report of harbour porpoise monitoring at the FORCE test site using C-PODs.

- FORCE recently submitted its 2021-2023 proposed EEMP to regulators for review. The 2021-2023 EEMP is designed to prepare for effects testing with the deployment of operational turbines, and adheres to the principles of adaptive management by evaluating existing datasets to ensure appropriate monitoring approaches are being implemented.

- FORCE is working collaboratively with the OERA to advance ‘The Pathway Program’ to identify effective and regulator approved monitoring solutions for the tidal energy industry in Nova Scotia. Work is currently underway to develop a hydroacoustic data analysis pipeline that will generate quarterly reports to provide information on three metrics of interest to regulators: i) frequency of target detections, ii) abundance of targets detected, and iii) vertical distribution of targets in the water column.

-FORCE is also working with academic and First Nations partners to advance the Risk Assessment Program (RAP) for tidal stream energy. This program seeks to develop credible and statistically robust encounter rate models for migratory and resident fish species in Minas Passage with tidal turbines.Since the start of the project, FORCE has established a high-resolution radar network in Minas Passage and has started to quantify hydrodynamic features in the region and build the tidal flow atlas required for the program. FORCE has also started modelling the spatiotemporal distributions for the nine species for which sufficient acoustic tracking data is available, and has started planning the fish tagging component of the program required for encounter rate model validation. Ultimately, this will contribute towards understanding the risk of instream tidal power development for fishes in the Bay of Fundy and will assist in the development of future environmental effects monitoring programs.