Environmental Aspects

Strangford Lough is of significant international importance for nature conservation, supporting a wide array of flora and fauna. Due to the environmental significance of the area, extensive studies were carried out both before the SeaGen S device was installed and during the initial operation as part of a three year Environmental Monitoring Programme.

Environmental monitoring began in 2004 to inform an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). In 2005, an Environmental Statement detailing the findings of the EIA was submitted to support the licence application.

In 2008, a five year licence for the temporary deployment of the SeaGen S technology in Strangford Lough was awarded by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) (formerly known as the Environment and Heritage Service - EHS).

MCT implemented a £3 million Environmental Monitoring Programme (EMP) including marine mammal monitoring and bird and benthic ecology surveys. The EMP progressively demonstrated the benign nature of the development; and at the end of the programme it was concluded that no major environmental impacts had been detected.

The EMP was managed by leading environmental consultancy Royal Haskoning DHV with scientific input from Queens University Belfast and the Sea Mammal Research Unit based at St Andrews University in Scotland (SMRU).

A Science Group, consisting of a range of stakeholders, was set up to oversee the EMP and advise the regulator on the various activities and changes as the SeaGen S project progressed. The Science Group has an independent chairperson, David Erwin (a well-known environmental scientist in Northern Ireland), to ensure that the group is impartial and decision making is as transparent as possible.

A Liaison Group was also established in recognition of the relevance of the SeaGen S project and its EMP to a wide range of statutory and non-statutory bodies, stakeholders and individuals, all of whom have an ongoing interest in tidal energy, the marine environment, and in particular the EMP outputs. The report detailing the findings of the EMP can be downloaded here.

Seal

A seal in Strangford Lough with a GPS/GSM tag attached, April 2005.