Assessing the effects of offshore wind turbine facilities on fish early life stages

Funding agency: The Institute of Marine Research, North Sea Program.
Project period: 2020-2023
Project leader: Howard Browman
Co-investigators: Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Caroline Durif, Alessandro Cresci
Project summary
The need to reduce fossil fuel emissions to combat global climate change has motivated a rapid development and expansion of sources of renewable energy, including large offshore wind farms (OWFs). To date, assessments of the potential effects of OWFs on marine organisms – needed to inform stakeholders and managers – have focused mainly on the construction phase – that is, on pile-driving. Very few studies have assessed lethal or sublethal effects of operational noise from OWFs, or electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from the subsea power cables that carry the energy produced from offshore to land. Besides a very small number of studies on the effects of simulated operational noise and static magnetic fields on fish embryos and hatching larvae, there is no information at all on the impacts of OWFs on the early life history stages of fish that either reside in or pass through OWFs. More effort is needed to investigate the possible impacts of OWFs on ichthyoplankton, particularly larval migratory behaviour or dispersal ecology.
Recruitment in commercially important fish is related, at least in part, to whether the early life stages disperse to areas that are suitable for survival. Dispersal of ichthyoplankton is determined by the combined effect of oceanographic features, active swimming, and directed orientation behavior. Active and directed orientation has recently been reported in the larvae of several commercially important species such as Atlantic haddock, Atlantic herring, saithe and European glass eel. Larvae use this ability to orient during their long-distance migrations and during dispersal from spawning grounds to nursery areas. We have also observed that exposure to very low levels of oil residues reduces the swimming speed and disrupts the orientation of Atlantic haddock larvae, demonstrating that sub-lethal effects of anthropogenic stressors can be subtle.
Measure and model the sound and EMFs associated with OWFs, and at various distances from the wind turbines, to establish realistic exposure levels for experimental and field work.
Assess the potential impacts of sound and EMFs associated with OWFs on the ability of the early life stages of fish to disperse, orient, and navigate in their environment.
Apply the information produced to develop a first-order risk assessment.

ZoopSeis – Effects of seismic sound on zooplankton

Funding agency: The Research Council of Norway, MARINFORSK Program.
Project period: 2020-2023
Project leader: Lise Doksæter Sivle
Co-investigators: Karen de Jong, Nils Olav Handegard, Howard Browman, David Fields, Anne Berit Skiftesvik+++
Project summary
Anthropogenic noise from seismic surveys has been documented to affect fish and marine mammals both in terms of physical injury and changes in behaviour. However, data on lower taxa are scarce. Two recent studies show highly contradicting results. A study by McCauley et al. (2017) indicates that seismic blasts may kill various species of zooplankton in Australia at distances of up to 1200 m from an airgun, while another study (Fields et al. 2019) reports no mortality or sublethal effect at distances >10m from a seismic blast in Norway. These highly contradictory results suggest that effects may be variable and highly dependent on species and geographic area. To predict at what ranges a seismic survey can impact zooplankton populations, a thorough understanding of the mechanism behind such effects is crucial. In this project, we will use a combination of modelling and laboratory to address what forces can induce injury and mortality in zooplankton, and at what ranges from a seismic survey such forces could be strong enough to have a lasting impact. We will focus on direct mortality, reproductive output and predator avoidance to assess both immediate and delayed effects. In addition, we will use field studies to verify predicted effects on natural population and to assess the potential for avoidance. The results will be used to provide advice on how to minimize the negative impact of seismic surveys in areas with high zooplankton concentrations.

Do seismic surveys kill zooplankton?

Funding agency: The Institute of Marine Research, North Sea Program.
Project period: 2019-2023
Project leader: Lise Doksæter Sivle
Co-investigators: Karen de Jong, Nils Olav Handegard, Egil Ona, Howard Browman, Anne Berit Skiftesvik+++
Project summary
The effects of seismic sound on ocean life are not necessarily limited to larger taxa. Small animals could be exposed to shaking from sound waves, which could potentially damage and even kill individuals. The smallest animals in the world’s oceans, zooplankton, are crucial ocean productivity and the survival of larval fish. McCauley et al. (2018) report zooplankton mortality up to 1200 m from a seismic transect, and infer a causal relationship. If true, these data would mean that seismic explorations could kill zooplankton on long distances around an airgun, and thus affect productivity in large areas. However, the set-up used in the paper does not allow for testing whether mortality could have been caused by other sources of disturbance, such as the propeller wake of the ships used the experiment or variation in natural mortality over the day. An experimental study by Fields et al. (in press) found mortality only within a 5m range from the source using caged individuals at several distances from an airgun. IMR is responsible to give advice to all seismic operations in Norwegian waters. If the results presented by McCauley et al. are correct, seismic operations in areas with high zooplankton concentrations should be discouraged. To evaluate whether such dramatic advices should be given, we need to assess and understand the potential effects on population. We therefore propose a step wise combination of lab and field studies. Lab studies will give insight in the processes of how zooplankton can potentially be affected and can demonstrate whether propeller wash could be an alternative explanation for the mortality found in McCauley et al. instead of the seismic itself. Fields studies on the other hand are needed to understand large scale effects in a natural environment, and potential avoidance behaviours, caused by a real air-gun, field studies are necessary.

MAREEL – The importance of the marine habitat for the critically endangered European eel

Funding agencies: The Research Council of Norway, MARINFORSK Program + The Institute of Marine Research, Coastal Ecosystems Program.
Project period: 2018-2021
Project leader: Caroline Durif
Co-investigators: Howard Browman, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Even Moland, Eva Thorstad, Francoise Daverat, Michael Arts, Janet Koprivnikar, Michael Power, Leif Asbjørn Vøllestad.

Project summary
     The European eel, (Anguilla anguilla) is semi-catadromous: it spawns in the sea but spends most of its life in freshwater (FW). Some individuals either skip the FW phase or shift habitat throughout the growth phase of their life history. Despite habitat shifting sometimes being a dominant trait at high latitudes, little is known about eels that remain in marine habitats (saltwater (SW) residency). A. anguilla is currently red listed as critically endangered. Causes for the decline are associated mainly with FW residency: dams and power plants, parasites and elevated contaminant levels. Although the proximate and ultimate drivers of FW vs. SW residency are unknown, residing in SW, or shifting habitats, may confer considerable advantages. To test whether eels that have lived in the marine environment are fitter and have a better chance at reproduction than FW eels, we will investigate condition, growth, length and age at maturation of eels caught in different salinity environments along a latitudinal gradient in Norway. The salinity history of eels will be retraced using microchemistry analyses on otoliths and compared with back-calculated growth rates. Their overall condition will be linked to the parasite load, their fatty acid (FA) profile and their long-term dietary patterns obtained by stable isotope analysis (SIA). Once FA and SIA profiles are established, we will use these proxies to infer the salinity histories of a larger sample of eels at different latitudes along the Norwegian coast. We will investigate seasonal movements of eels between SW and FW, using tags and fixed monitoring station. Habitat use in the sea (behavior, depth, effect of the swimbladder parasite) will be investigated using acoustic telemetry. This project will provide unique knowledge on the determinants of diadromy and on the SW and “shifting” life history strategies of eels that will contribute to worldwide efforts to conserve this ancient species. MAREEL will explore the drivers of catadromy vs. marine residency in the Norwegian subpopulation of the European eel.
     MAREEL’s objectives are: 1) To understand the factors that drive European eels to either colonize freshwater systems or remain in saltwater systems or shift habitat by determining their relative ecological advantage in terms of growth, fatty acid profiles, dietary pattern and parasite load; 2) To identify patterns in the different life-history strategies of eels (saltwater, freshwater, or habitat shifting), for example along a latitudinal gradient 3) To determine the proximate drivers (environmental and biological) of migrations between freshwater and saltwater. 4) To characterize habitat use of eel in marine waters and investigate the effect of the swimbladder parasite on their swimming behavior.

Read about the project here:
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Fine-scale interactions in the plankton – empirical observations to parameterize trophodynamic and dispersal models

Funding agency: Institute of Marine Research, Marine Processes and Human Activity Program
Project period: 2020 – 2024
Project leader: Howard Browman
Co-investigators: Anne Berit Skiftesvik, David Fields, Caroline Durif

Project summary
This is a long-term project in which we make behavioural and physiological observations of ichthyoplankton and zooplankton, in the laboratory and in situ, with the aim of delivering empirical relationships on vital rates, swimming and orientation for parameterization of various components of ecosystem and trophic interaction models. For the laboratory-based observations, we use microrespirometry, electrophysiology, microspectrophotmetry, flumes, plankton kriesel tanks, a plankton grazing wheel, a magnetic coil system to manipulate the field orientation and strength to which organisms are exposed, and silhouette and schlieren imaging for behavioural observations of swimming and escape response kinematics. For the in situ work, we use Drifting in situ Chambers, passive acoustics and tagging.

Effects of seismic sound on spawning behaviour and reproductive success of cod

Funding agencies: The Research Council of Norway, MARINFORSK Program + The Institute of Marine Research, Marine Processes and Human Activity Program.
Project period: 2018-2020
Project leader: Lise Sivle Doksæter
Co-investigators: Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Jon Egil Skjæraasen, Nils Olav Handegård, Ørjan Karlsen, Even Moland, Karen de Jong, Michael Ainslie, Erwin Jansen, Paulo Fonseca, Maria Clara Amorim, Hans Slabberkoorn, Svein Løkkeborg, Petter Kvadsheim, Anders Fernø

Project summary
Impact may vary between species and live stages. This project target cod (Gadus morhua), a widely distributed and important species throughout the Atlantic ocean, with hearing range and sound production overlapping with seismic airguns, as well as spawning sites located in the central north sea where the majority of the seismic activity are conducted, thus causing a major management challenge.

Important spawning sites in Lofoten also makes it highly relevant in terms of assessing potential oil exploitation. Successful reproduction are essential for stock recruitment, and sound production and hearing are essential during cod spawning, as successful mating relies on vacillation to time release of spawning products. Spawning may hence be impacted in terms of a) hampered vocalization/masking or b) avoidance of spawning site due to exposure. This project will explore both vocal behavior and movement in time and space, as well as investigate the quality of spawning products in exposed and control groups. Exposure will be done with a downscaled air gun.

We will work in close collaboration with a large international consortium targeting to assess the population level effects of seismic exposure on cod. This will contribute to exchange ideas, experience and results. Project results are directly applicable into management of fish stocks during seismic surveys, and results obtained will be used to define mitigation to minimizing impact of seismic surveys on fish, but avoiding  unnecessary mitigation restrictions, aiming at a better coexistence between the fishery and oil industry.

Experimental objectives: 
a) Compare fertilization rate, number of eggs and batches spawned between exposed and non-exposed cod throughout a spawning season.
b) Further study the developement, growth and hatching of cod eggs under exposure to evaluate long term effects.
c) Investigate how seismic exposure affect horisontal and vertical distribution of free living cod during the spawning season, including potential avoidance in time and space of young and adult fish.
d) Provide knowledge to improve scientific advice to management and regulatory bodies.

Capacity for adaptation to multiple climate change drivers in sub-Arctic invertebrates

Funding agencies: Institute of Marine Research, Marine Processes and Human Activity Program + Fram Centre for High North Research Centre for Climate and the Environment
Project period: 2018 – 2020
Project leader: Howard Browman
Co-investigators: Haakon Hop, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Caroline Durif, David Fields, Neel Aluru

Project summary
Marine cladocerans (Podon spp. and/or Evadne spp.) will be used as a model to investigate the relative roles of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms in determining the adaptation capacity of marine populations to CO2 and temperature. Cladocerans are widely used as models to study the evolutionary basis of phenotypic plasticity because they reproduce clonally (asexually) and sexually, which offers a unique opportunity to assess the relative contributions of the epigenetic (in clonal populations) and genetic (in sexually reproducing populations) mechanisms underlying adaption to environmental drivers, and their molecular basis.


The effects of photo-induced toxicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon on the escape performance and foraging behaviour of larval fish

Funding agency: The Institute of Marine Research, Marine Processes and Human Activity Program
Project period: 2018-2020
Project leaders: Bridie Jean Marie Allan and Sonnich Meier
Co-investigators: Howard Browman, Caroline Durif, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Elin Sørhus, Carey Donald, Valeriya Komyakova, Olav Sigurd Kjesbu, Arild Folkvord

Project summary
This project will use laboratory exposures of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs) and ultraviolet radiation (UV), as well as simulations of predation events and foraging opportunities, to answer three main questions:
• Does PAH exposure affect the anti-predator behaviour of haddock, cod and herring?
• Does PAH exposure affect the foraging behaviour of haddock, cod and herring?
• Does photo-induced toxicity of PAHs increase any observed behavioral effects?

The effects of the anti-sea lice chemotherapeutant, hydrogen peroxide, on non-target planktonic organisms around salmon farms

Funding agencies: Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries + the Institute of Marine Research, Coastal Ecosystems Program.
Project period: 2018-2020
Project leader: Ole Samuelsen
Doctoral student: Rosa Helena Escobar
Co-investigators: Anne-Lisbeth Agnalt, Caroline Durif, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Howard Browman, David Fields

Project summary
Hydrogen peroxide is a pesticide commonly used to treat sea lice in salmonid farming. The compound is added to the sea pens and, after use, as with other anti-sea lice pesticides in salmonid fish farming, is released directly into the environment where non-target organisms are exposed to it. This project will assess the lethal and sub-lethal effect of hydrogen peroxide on planktonic organisms surrounding salmon farms.

Optimizing the use of cleanerfish on salmon farms

Funding agencies: The Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF) + Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries + the Institute of Marine Research, Coastal Ecosystems Program
Project period: 2018 – 2020
Project Leader: Anne Berit Skiftesvik
Co-investigators: Howard Browman, Caroline Durif, Kim Halvorsen

Project summary
To optimize the use of cleanerfish (wrasses and lumpfish) on salmon farms.

Population dynamics of wild wrasse populations along the Norwegian coast

Funding agency: The Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF) + Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries + the Institute of Marine Research, Coastal Ecosystems Program
Project period: 2018 – 2020
Project Leader: Anne Berit Skiftesvik
Co-investigators: Howard Browman, Caroline Durif, Kim Halvorsen

Project summary
To assess the population dynamics and status of wrasse populations that are now exploited for use as cleanerfish on salmon farms.


FishID: Computer vision for individual identification in wild fish populations

Funding agency: The Research Council of Norway, MARINFORSK Program + The Institute of Marine Research, Coastal Processes Program
Project period: 2021 – 2024
Project leader: Howard Browman
Co-investigators: Nils Olav Handegard, Anne Berit Skiftesvik, Kjetil Malde, Morten Goodwin, Kjell Magnus Norderhaug, Karen de Jong, Kim Halvorsen, Tonje Knudsen Sørdalen, Suzanne Alonzo, Paul Fernandes, Diana Perry
Project summary
High definition underwater cameras and other observational equipment are now available at low cost. Large scale deployment would produce unprecedented volumes of observations about marine ecosystems, but video data analysis is extremely labor intensive. Only a fraction of these images can be analysed manually, greatly limiting the potential advances that can be made from these data streams. FishID’s overarching objective is to develop a computer vision framework for individual identification of wild coastal and anadromous fish species – wrasses and salmonids.