Seals will give a wide berth to offshore wind farms during the noisiest phase of construction, according to new Scottish research.
Scientists at the University of St Andrews used GPS telemetry tags to study the behaviour of protected harbour seals before, during and after offshore wind farm construction and operation.
Results showed the mammals will move around 20km away from the site while pile-driving work to attach turbines to the seabed is under way but return to the area afterwards.
Previous research has shown that pile-driving sounds may be loud enough to cause hearing damage in seals so moving away from the source may prove to have benefits.
However, such avoidance can result in the seals, which have been declining in recent years, being unable to access important feeding areas.
Researchers say the findings have important implications for the wind farm planning consent process and could inform strategies to minimise the impact of offshore schemes on wildlife.
Study leader Dr Debbie Russell, from the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the university, said: “Seals are protected by European law and our findings will be used by the regulators and the marine renewables industry to more accurately predict the effect of particular wind farms on seals.