Harbour porpoise responses to pile-driving diminish over time

Isla M Graham* (Corresponding Author), Nathan D. Merchant, Adrian Farcas, Tim R Candido Barton, Barbara Cheney, Saliza Bono, Paul M Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
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Estimating impacts of offshore windfarm construction on marine mammals requires data on displacement in relation to different noise levels and sources. Using echolocation detectors and noise recorders, we investigated harbour porpoise behavioural responses to piling noise during the 10-month foundation installation of a North Sea windfarm. Current UK guidance assumes total displacement within 26 km of pile driving. In contrast, we recorded a 50 % probability of response within 7.4 km (95 % CI = 5.7 – 9.4) at the first location piled, decreasing to 1.3 km (95 % CI = 0.2 – 2.8) by the final location; representing 28 % (95 % CI = 21 – 35) and 18 % (95 % CI = 13 – 23) displacement of individuals within 26 km. Distance proved as good a predictor of responses as audiogram weighted received levels, presenting a more practicable variable for environmental assessments. Critically, acoustic deterrent device (ADD) use and vessel activity increased response levels. Policy and management to minimise impacts of renewables on cetaceans have concentrated on pile-driving noise. Our results highlight the need to consider trade-offs between efforts to reduce far-field behavioural disturbance and near-field injury through ADD use.
Original languageEnglish
Article number190335
Number of pages13
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number6
Early online date26 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

This study was funded by Beatrice Offshore Wind Ltd. (BOWL) using equipment previously purchased by UK Department of Energy & Climate Change, Scottish Government, Oil and Gas UK, COWRIE and Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd. P.T. and T.B. were core funded by University of Aberdeen. N.M. and A.F. were core funded by Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science. I.G. and B.C. were core funded by University of Aberdeen but with salary support for the period of this study though contract to BOWL. S.B. was a self-funded post-graduate student.


  • acoustic disturbance
  • anthropogenic noise
  • behavioural response
  • environmental risk assessment
  • marine mammal conservation
  • Environmental risk assessment
  • Marine mammal conservation
  • Behavioural response
  • Acoustic disturbance
  • Anthropogenic noise


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