Tidal industry warned to improve monitoring for effects on sea creatures

Darren Porter as seen in a recent Facebook video

A spokesman for the Fundy United Federation fishermen’s group says he’s pleased that government regulators have issued a stern warning to both Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. and the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE).

“This warning was needed,” Darren Porter said today during a telephone interview. “I don’t think it’s enough,” he added, “but it’s a start.”

Porter was referring to documents released yesterday from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment (NSE) imposing new requirements for environmental monitoring at the FORCE tidal test site near Parrsboro. The monitoring is needed to try to gauge the effects of turbines on fish, marine mammals, lobsters and other sea creatures.

Among other things, government regulators say monitoring devices must be field-tested before another Cape Sharp turbine is deployed at the site, there must be back-up systems in place in case monitoring equipment fails to work properly and monitoring results must be compared with predictions that tidal turbines would have minimal effects when environmental approvals were granted in 2009.

Faulty equipment

The regulators were reacting to Cape Sharp’s acknowledgement that some of its fish and marine mammal monitoring devices did not work properly and others failed to work at all from the date of deployment on November 7, 2016 until April 21, 2017 when the turbine was disconnected from its data cables in preparation for retrieval.

It took the company eight weeks to raise the turbine and during that period, there was no monitoring of its effects on sea creatures.

Government officials and scientists are also requiring FORCE, which oversees the test site, to take responsibility for environmental monitoring near the turbine rather than leaving it up to the company.

While Darren Porter is pleased that government regulators are requiring more reliable and consistent monitoring, he says there are still big gaps because FORCE and Cape Sharp are not being required to measure direct effects on fish and marine mammals.

“They still don’t have to look for collisions,” he says, “they still don’t have to look for mortality (deaths) and they still have no way to determine environmental effects by direct impact of that machine.”

Problems and failures

In its annual report on environmental monitoring during turbine deployment, Cape Sharp includes the following:

  • four hydrophones (underwater microphones) are located on the turbine to detect vocal sounds from marine mammals such as harbour porpoises and whales. Only one of the devices worked properly.
  • acoustic devices called imaging sonars were pointed at the sea floor instead of capturing fish and marine mammal movements in the mid-water column; electrical interference caused interruptions in data transmission to shore-based computers interfering with analysis of the data.
  • a video camera mounted on the turbine was damaged shortly after deployment and failed to record any footage.
  • Two Autonomous Multichannel Acoustic Recorders (AMARs) were mounted on the sea floor to measure noise from the turbine. One AMAR was deployed approximately 100 metres from the turbine and a second AMAR, a control unit, was deployed approximately 680 metres away. So far, the company has been unable to recover the second control unit because of obstacles posed by underwater boulders.

Cape Sharp and FORCE

Both Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. and FORCE say they will comply with the regulators’ requirements.

Cape Sharp says it expects to deploy a second turbine sometime this summer.

I e-mailed both the company and FORCE with a list of questions.

To read Cape Sharp’s response, click here. To read FORCE’s response, click here.

To read the documents from NSE and DFO posted on the FORCE website, click here.

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2 Responses to Tidal industry warned to improve monitoring for effects on sea creatures

  1. Well finally some kind of action going on to “control” this “experiment” in wasting money! Looks like the appropriate government bodies are now catching on to the “antics” of this bunch of dreamers who are obviously completely in capable of even getting their monitoring gear to work much less a giant turbine of which it appears that deployment of their second unit will either be appropriately delayed by proper compliance issues (I hope) and thank God or the Nova Scotia Fisheries or Dept of Environment AND the local fishermens’ associations for finally holding these “pied pipers” to the flame and to compelling them to start playing by the rules instead of just “playing” at big toys! -Gordon Heffler/Halifax

  2. Rima Azar says:

    It is refreshing to read good news: Federal and provincial Government Departments on the same page, along with the federation of fishermen’s associations. It is also reassuring to read that the companies will adhere to the requirements.

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