Behavioral responses of fish to a current-based hydrokinetic turbine under mutliple operational conditions


There is significant international interest in developing current-based marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technologies to capture the power of tidal energy. However, concerns have been raised regarding the ecological effects of these projects on fish, including the risk of blade collision and behavioral impacts such as the disruption of migratory behavior and food acquisition and displacement from preferred habitats. We conducted mobile hydroacoustic surveys to track fish as they approached a tidal turbine deployed in Cobscook Bay, Maine. There was a significant decline in fish numbers with decreasing distance to the turbine, beginning approximately 140 m from the turbine. Similar declines were not observed at control transects or when the turbine was not spinning. The decline in fish numbers appeared to be the result of horizontal displacement, not vertical, movements to avoid the turbine. Noise rather than visual cues or flow field disturbance seemed to be a likely explanation for the reduced number of fish near the turbine. This finding, combined with near-field blade collision studies indicating a low probability of encounter, suggests that a single turbine poses a low collision risk to pelagic fish and that a single turbine is likely to result in minimal behavioral responses by fish. However, the risk may be different with additional devices, which will become more relevant as commercial-scale MHK arrays come under consideration. Therefore, the risks associated with commercial-scale operations will ultimately have to be evaluated to fully understand the ecological impacts of MHK devices.

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We would like to thank the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.


Funding for this project was provided by the US Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

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Correspondence to Mark Grippo.

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Grippo, M., Zydlewski, G., Shen, H. et al. Behavioral responses of fish to a current-based hydrokinetic turbine under mutliple operational conditions. Environ Monit Assess 192, 645 (2020).

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  • Hydrokinetic energy
  • ELAM
  • Fish behavior
  • Agent based modeling