Highlands & Islands

Seals' tidal turbine avoidance 'needs research'

Grey seal pup Image copyright PA
Image caption Grey seals might be best equipped to deal with collisions, a newly published report suggests

The ability of seals to avoid collisions with tidal turbines has still to be properly understood, a new report has suggested.

The report gives details of a study into the potential for seals coming into contact with the renewable energy devices in the Pentland Firth.

The research suggests collisions could happen, but were not likely to be fatal to grey seals, a large seal species.

Smaller harbour seals might be "less robust", the report noted.

The report and analysis was commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

'Modify behaviour'

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Smaller harbour seals were described as "less robust" than grey seals in the report

The study examined the movements of tagged seals in the Pentland Firth, a narrow stretch of sea separating mainland Scotland and the Orkney Islands.

Scientists based their research on a hypothetical array of up to 86 tidal turbines.

In their report, the researchers said there was potential for seals to collide with turbines, adding that larger grey seals were unlikely to be fatally injured.

But they also pointed out that seals should be able to detect turbines "both visually and acoustically and are also likely to be able to modify their behaviour to avoid collisions".

The scientists said this avoidance behaviour required additional research.