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How Atlantic cod behave to seismic sound exposure - a joint industry project

Within the framework of the PCAD4COD project, an integrated set of studies were performed to understand the impact of airgun sounds on fish. This was done through modelling the energy-flow, individual behaviour and population dynamics as well as collecting field data on behaviour, physiology, growth and maturation and linking this to sound pressure and particle motion. This project is conducted in the context of the Joint Industry Programme on E&P Sound and Marine Life on Establishing the sensitivity of Fish to Seismic Activities. LifeWatch is involved in gathering field data on the behaviour of adult, tagged, free-ranging cod before, during and after a seismic survey. Data collected during this field experiment will be used as input parameters for the modellers. Data collection on free-ranging fish provides critical insights needed to assess the environmental impact of seismic surveys at sea.

Keywords: acoustic tracking, seismic survey, population consequences of airgun disturbance, PCAD-model

The E&P Sound and Marine Life Joint Industry Programme

The Joint Industry Programme for Sound and Marine Life was set up in 2005 under the auspices of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) to identify and conduct a research programme that improves understanding of the potential impact of Exploration and Production (E&P) sound on marine life.

Background

The Joint Industry Programme, or JIP, supports research to help increase understanding of the effect of sound on marine life generated by oil and gas exploration and production activity. The research helps governments make regulatory decisions based on the best science and the industry and develop effective mitigation strategies. With this study, we investigated how exposure to seismic sounds influences the movement behaviour of Atlantic cod and whether this influences their energetics.

Methodology

Acoustic telemetry was used to investigate the possible changes in movement behaviour. 53 individuals were tagged with acoustic transmitters with a pressure and acceleration sensor (Vemco V13-AP). An array of 21 receivers, deployed across 6 turbines in an offshore wind farm, were used to infer the movement behaviour before-during-after a seismic survey.

In addition, a hydrophone and particle motion sensor (MEMS), were placed in the middle of the 6 wind turbines for sound pressure and particle motions recording to which the animals were exposed. Particle motion was recorded by three accelerometers calibrated along the x, y and z axes of the MEMS.

Used components of the LifeWatch Infrastructure

This project could not have been performed without the LifeWatch infrastructure.

The permanent Belgian Acoustic Receiver Network (pBarn) provided additional data, next to the receivers deployed in the framework of the project, needed to gather the necessary telemetry data to infer movement behaviour. Furthermore, the poject used a tripod, to moore the receivers in open ocean conditions. These tripods were developed under the auspices of LifeWatch and part of the tripods used are owned and maintained by LifeWatch.

Environmental data, gathered during the Monthly LifeWatch sampling campaigns was used to link animal behaviour to the environment.

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