Any plans for wind and tidal turbines off Alderney will have to take into consideration the island’s massive colony of gannets.
A study has shown that the area where the gannets travel for food overlaps with nine sites earmarked for offshore marine energy developments.
The island is home to 7,500 pairs of gannets – that’s five per cent of the world population.
The study by Liverpool University was ordered by the Alderney Commission for Renewable Energy together with Alderney Wildlife Trust and the British Trust for Ornithology.
French, English and Alderney companies are lining up to exploit the very strong tidal currents around the island.
Alderney Renewable Energy is working with partners to put in two tidal turbines by the end of next year. It’s reckoned they will meet the island’s energy needs.
And French company DCNS last month launched plans to put 10 tidal turbines into their part of the Alderney Race by 2016.
Scientists tagged 15 gannets breeding on Les Etacs with GPS data loggers to track where they went to feed and the routes on which they travelled.
Within six days data loggers were retrieved and the details of 34 foraging trips were revealed. Researchers found that individual gannets seemed to specialise their feeding in different areas with some flying to the South Coast of England, some southwards to Jersey and others towards Le Havre on the French coast. On one occasion a gannet made a 340 kilometre round-trip for food.
The study found that on the whole individual gannets flew in the same direction and covered the same distance during each foraging trip. But it found that they varied in the amount of time they spent searching for food, suggesting that they did not depend on specific feeding sites.
Louise Soanes, from the School of Environmental Sciences, said there was a potential for collision with any wind turbines erected in the area.
The investigation marked the first stage of a three-year study into Alderney’s gannetry.
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