Attractive Turbines

March 10, 2024
By Damond Benningfield

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Larval cod appear to be attracted to the low hum of off shore wind turbines. Image courtesy of Dr. Fredrik Jutfelt, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Many people like to have some “white noise” in the background while they work or sleep. And some fish seem to like it as well. A recent study found that young Atlantic cod were attracted to a background “hum” like that produced by offshore wind turbines.

Researchers in Norway studied the impact of a low-frequency hum on 89 larval cod. They put the fish in mesh containers, then placed them in a fjord in Norway. They played the humming sound to half of the fish, but not the other half. And they recorded how the fish responded on video.

The cod that didn’t hear the sound all aimed toward the northwest. But most of those that did hear it aimed toward the sound—suggesting the fish could be attracted to wind turbines.

And there are plenty of them. As of 2022, the North Sea had more than 40 wind farms with more than 2600 turbines. And Europe has agreed to ramp up offshore wind power almost 10-fold by 2050. That means thousands more turbines, all of which will transmit a low hum into the water.

Scientists aren’t sure what that will mean for cod and other organisms. But the study suggests that young cod could decide to settle around the turbines. Fishing fleets don’t operate near the turbines, so that could offer some protection. On the other hand, the hum might drown out the sounds produced by the fish themselves, which they use for mating and other activities. So we don’t know whether that “white noise” will be good or bad for ocean life.