If a seal was ever looking for a buffet line, the animals have found it near wind turbines. A study published in the journal Current Biology used the GPS tracking data of seals to monitor their location and feeding grounds.
Sheringham Shoal proved to be the go to spot for the seals in the study. It also happens to be an offshore wind farm in the U.K. One of the authors of the study, Deborah Russell of the University of St. Andrews shared her surprise at the grid-like pattern of of the tagged seals. “I was shocked when I first saw the stunning grid pattern of a seal track around Sheringham Shoal.”
The tagged harbor and gray seals both formed the grid-like pattern and foraged at specific locations. Both types of seals seemed especially interested in the undersea pipelines connecting the turbines.
“Only a small proportion of our study seals utilized wind farms or pipelines,” said Russell. “At present these structures cover a small proportion of the extent of the at-sea distribution of seals.”
What isn’t know is why the seals are using wind farms as a buffet for feeding. Researchers are looking into whether the farms draw more prey, or if it concentrates the prey. Concentrations of prey would make it easier for the seals to feed.
Researchers also want to study the full impact the offshore wind farms will have on the ecosystem of the seals and their prey. Not enough information is out there to form a conclusion on whether the wind farms present an overall hazard for the animals or a neutral impact on the seals.