Effect of an offshore wind farm on the viviparous eelpout: Biometrics, brood development and population studies in Lillgrund, Sweden
Journal article, 2018
Sufficient, clean and secure energy is the main driver for a worldwide growing welfare and economic development of a society. Environmental concerns on the expansion of offshore renewable energy and its impact on marine organisms need to be scientifically assessed for risks and consequences. In order to observe the effects of an operating wind farm on fish, we studied the rather stationary and benthic-living fish species viviparous eelpout (Zoarces viviparous) as model indicator organisms. We compared local populations of viviparous eelpout in the Lillgrund Offshore Wind Farm (OWF) with natural sites in the Öresund strait in Sweden. Eelpout studies on population dynamics, biometrics, reproductive success and fry development were conducted in 2011 and 2012. Condition index, histosomatic index, gonadosomatic index were measured additionally. Our findings showed that Lillgrund OWF neither had an impact on the condition index (CI), nor on brood development of female viviparous eelpout. Furthermore, populations size estimates in Lillgrund indicated that eelpout neither specifically aggregated in nor avoided the offshore wind farm, and no clear reef effect attracting eelpout to the foundations and scour protections of the OWF was observed. Our conclusion is that the operating wind farm did not have any potentially negative effects, since we did not observe any negative effects neither on the individual health of eelpout nor of the reproductive performance. We suggest that eelpout which may also be used as an indicator species for the environmental status of Lillgrund, as well as for other offshore wind farms and marine renewable energy installations, both in the Baltic and coastal waters in northern Europe.