Capabilities of an Acoustic Camera to Inform Fish Collision Risk with Current Energy Converter Turbines

Journal Article
Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, vol. 10, iss. 4, pp. 483, 2022
Garrett J. Staines, Robert P. Mueller, Andrew C. Seitz, Mark D. Evans, Patrick W. O’Byrne, Martin Wosnik
A diversified energy portfolio may include marine energy in the form of current energy converters (CECs) such as tidal or in-river turbines. New technology development in the research stage typically requires monitoring for environmental effects. A significant environmental effect of concern for CECs is the risk of moving parts (e.g., turbine blades) colliding with animals such as fishes. CECs are installed in energetic locations in which it is difficult to operate sensors to fulfill monitoring requirements for informing collision risk. Collecting data (i.e., about blade strikes or near-misses) that inform interactions of fishes with CECs is usually attempted using active acoustic sensors or video cameras (VCs). Limitations of low-light conditions or water turbidity that preclude effective use of VCs are overcome by using high-resolution multibeam echosounders (or acoustic cameras (ACs)). We used an AC at two sites to test its ability to detect artificial and real fish targets and determine if strike, near-miss, and near-field behavior could be observed. Interactions with fish and artificial targets with turbines have been documented but strike confirmation with an AC is novel. The first site was in a tidal estuary with a 25 kW turbine and water clarity sufficient to allow VC data to be collected concurrently with AC data showing turbine blade strike on tethered artificial fish targets. The second site was a turbid, debris-laden river with a 5 kW turbine where only AC data were collected due to high water turbidity. Data collection at the second site coincided with downstream Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) smolt migration. Physical fish capture downstream of the turbine was performed with an incline plane trap (IPT) to provide context for the AC observations, by comparing fish catches. Discrimination between debris and fishes in the AC data was not possible, because active movement of fishes was not discernable. Nineteen fishes were released upstream of the turbine to provide known times of possible fish/turbine interactions, but detection was difficult to confirm in the AC data. ACs have been used extensively in past studies to count large migratory fish such as Pacific salmon, but their application for small fish targets has been limited. The results from these two field campaigns demonstrate the ability of ACs to detect targets in turbid water and observe blade strikes, as well as their limitations such as the difficulty of distinguishing small fishes from debris in a high-energy turbid river. Recommendations are presented for future applications associated with CEC device testing.