The influence of piling noise on Harbour Porpoises

Internship position (12 ECTS)
Oceans and Lakes
The harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is the most common marine mammal in the Belgian part of the North Sea and is protected by both national and EU law. In the North Sea, the harbour porpoise is considered under threat because of high bycatch levels and increasing noise pollution. Impulsive piling noise originating from the construction of offshore wind farms has been shown to affect porpoises to distances of up to 20 km from the noise source, but long-term effects remain unclear. Due to high porpoise densities, in Belgium offshore piling is prohibited from the start of January up to the end of April. For the Borssele wind farm situated in the Netherlands there is no such piling embargo. Since Belgian and Dutch wind farms are situated at one kilometre distance from each other, and since porpoises are highly mobile animals, there is a need for improved insights into the impact of piling noise on porpoises which can serve as a basis for an objective evaluation of the respective legal regimes. From May to September 2016 piling activity was taking place at the Nobelwind wind farm located on the Bligh Bank. In this study we would evaluate porpoise activity, as recorded using passive acoustic monitoring (C-PODs), at various distances from the construction site (1 – >15 km). In this project, porpoise detections before, during, and after piling will be compared with a focus on the influence of repeated piling events. In addition to porpoise monitoring data, noise measurements and noise levels will be extrapolated for the different locations. The workload can be adjusted to the length of the traineeship, but a 12 week period seems the minimum.
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Prof. Dr. Steven Degraer (Promotor) Dr. Bob Rumes, Dr. Alain Norro,Jan Haelters (Supervisors)
Reference Number: RP-48851