Porpoise conservation from science to regulation – basic principles illustrated by German wind farm developments
The principle that science provides the background for basic political decision making processes is tested today around the globe. While it is scientifically clear that climate change will reduce biodiversity worldwide, the installation of renewable energies is often rather seen as a foe than a friend to nature conservation. Conservation and climate protection are challenged by finding suitable solutions that quickly enable a basis for working together towards a common goal. A particularly good example, how working together can establish a common basis, can be found in Germany in terms of pile-driving for offshore wind farms. These loud sounds can injure animals directly or alter their behavior in terms of displacement, avoidance, reduced feeding success and increased physiological stress. To protect harbor porpoises from greater harm potentially resulting in an unsustainable population level effect, the precautionary principle was applied. Based on the very first results of temporary threshold shifts in harbour porpoise by Lucke et al. 2009, already in 2008/2009 the obligation to stay below an SEL of 160 dB re 1 µPa²s and 190 dB re 1µPa Lpp was implemented into the licensing procedure for building offshore wind farms in a joint process of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, the Federal Environmental Agency and the Federal Maritime and Shipping Agency. This shifted the responsibilities for implementing the conservation aspect of renewable energy production away from the scientists and agencies towards finding technical solutions for mitigating the possible impact by the applicants themselves. In 2013 the Bundesregierung implemented that obligation into federal law as the “Noise mitigation concept for the North Sea”. At the same time, tremendous progress towards establishing how porpoises react during offshore wind farm installation processes was still to be made. The implementation of impact monitoring, standardized through guidance documents like the “Standard for environmental impact assessments”, and their strict enforcement was, retrospectively seen, the second most critical step towards success. The talk will go through the process and explain basic principles of threshold setting as a political process.