A new study should excite ocean anglers as well as fans of ocean energy: Offshore wind farms act as artificial reefs, scientists say, creating new habitats and food sources for fish.
Researchers studied the offshore wind farms appearing with increasing regularity in Europe. As MIT Technology Review just reported:
Naturally, these (offshore wind turbine bases) become home to complex ecosystems. In the North Sea, where most of the European farms are being built, these ecosystems are dominated by blue mussels. These feed by filtering phytoplankton from the water. Mussels are also a food source for other marine animals, such as fish and crabs, and this has the potential to significantly alter the food web.
The research team concluded that a typical offshore turbine can support up to four metric tons of shellfish.
“Once all the planned wind farms are in operation, they will provide habitat for mussels that are equal to 20 percent of the current stock from natural mussel beds along the coast,” the study finds. It was published by Kaela Slavik at the Helmholtz Centre for Materials and Coastal Research in Germany.
That’s a lot of food that attracts schools of fish to offshore wind projects. As MIT reported:
Mussels are also food for larger species such as crabs and certain fish, which are themselves prey for seals. So it’s no surprise that seals have already begun to migrate to off shore wind farms off the coast of Denmark.
Anecdotally, fisherman are already finding this to be true at America’s first offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island.
“People who are fisherman totally understand it’s an artificial reef,” said Captain Hank Hewitt, a local Rhode Island fisherman, in the below video. “It’s going to build life. Now we actually know where the fish are going to be.”
It’s exciting that this new ocean energy resource also has such positive environmental benefits. Because as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said this morning at a National Clean Energy Week event in Washington, D.C., “offshore wind has enormous potential.”