Dutch marine contractor Van Oord and energy company Eneco are starting a unique project to encourage natural biodiversity by placing oysters on the seabed around two offshore wind farms in the North Sea, Van Oord announced Monday.
Entitled The Rich North Sea, the project's other partners are the North Sea Foundation and the Natuur & Milieu [Nature and Environment] organization, according to a press release from the company.
According to the statement, a pilot project at Eneco's Luchterduinen wind farm will investigate how nature conservation and sustainable energy generation can reinforce one another.
'The demonstration project will provide know-how and possibly a blueprint for underwater nature restoration at all offshore wind farms, so that this can soon become standard when constructing new wind projects,' Van Oord said.
The company noted that numerous, big, new wind farms are planned for the Dutch sector of the North Sea in the coming years.
'With the new project, Van Oord, Eneco, Natuur & Milieu, and the North Sea Foundation aim to show that nature conservation and sustainable energy generation can be mutually beneficial,' it said.
Van Oord is preparing another oyster project at the Borssele V innovation site to 'increase our understanding of how to speed up the recovery of oysters in the North Sea, something that is very important for improving biodiversity there'.
Human intervention and diseases have led to the virtually complete disappearance of natural reefs, often shellfish beds, from the North Sea, according to the company statement. 'Reefs play an important role underwater, filtering water and acting as an attachment point and source of food,' it said.
- 'Ideal location'
The statement also said the use of trawl nets is prohibited within wind farms, and marine life can attach to the support towers, making wind farms 'the ideal location for proactively reinforcing natural underwater features'.
'Various types of artificial reef systems and oysters will be positioned within the wind farm. The oysters will produce larvae that contribute to the creation of a full-scale reef that then attracts all kinds of other species, such as crabs, fish, and seals,' it added.
The reef structures will be positioned within Eneco's Luchterduinen wind farm this coming autumn using a Van Oord installation vessel.
The artificial reefs will consist of 'reef balls' and cages containing adult oysters, which will produce larvae.
How nature develops within the pilot project will be tracked in a scientific research and monitoring program in collaboration with Waardenburg consultants and Wageningen University and Research Center.
Based in Rotterdam, Van Oord is a global maritime contractor with a focus on dredging, oil and gas infrastructure and offshore wind.
By Hale Turkes