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IMR to lead large EU project on kelp and mussel farming within offshore wind farms

Kriegers Flak

The offshore wind farm Kriegers Flak in Kattegat is operated by the swedish company and project partner Vattenfall. This is one of the sites for kelp, mussels and artifical reefs.

Photo: Vattenfall

The project receives funding of 8,2 million EUR over the course of four years.

"Offshore wind farms occupy large areas at sea. It makes sense to find multiple uses of these areas, says researcher Erik-Jan Lock.

This is a thought the EU shares.

They have granted the OLAMUR project 8,2 million EUR in funding over four years, as a so-called lighthouse project. These are projects that will suggest concrete, sustainable solutions to new industries. (See fact box.)

The excited IMR researcher Erik-Jan Lock is the project manager.

Existing farms as pilot sites

"One thing is for certain: More offshore wind farms are coming. How can we make best use of the areas they occupy? In our project, we will establish three pilot sites for growing kelp and mussels in existing wind farms, and also at a fish farm for rainbow trout", says Lock.

The wind farms are located near Helgoland in Germany and east of Denmark in the Kattegat. The fish farm is in Estonian waters. (See fact box) These areas are nutrient-rich due to runoff and population density.

"We will look at technical solutions, follow the quality of the products, but also look at other aspects that can accelerate multi-use of these restricted areas, such as regulations and formalities.

"The goal is for the pilot sites to function as models for both industries and authorities", says Lock.

Wind farms as potential wildlife habitats

Fishing and other activities are restricted within a wind farm. These areas can therefore be viewed as a marine reserve. Through OLAMUR, researchers will also look at the function of artificial reefs.

"Another multi use from both kelp av mussel farms and artificial reef structures may be ecosystem services. That is, can they serve as a habitat for species or whole ecosystems?", Lock explains.

He draws parallels to lobster protected areas in Norway, which have shown to serve the local lobser both within and outside of the areas.

"Of course, there might be negative sides to this that we will also investigate. Such as the possible spread and housing of foreign species.

Project managing and reseach for 13 million NOK

The Institute of Marine Research's share in OLAMUR has a funding of about 13 million NOK.

IMR will be the project leader, but the institute also has its own research work package:

  • quality assesment of the seafood that is grown
  • analyze the seafood for nutrients, foreign substances and microplastics
  • find out how much CO2 the kelp and mussels absorb
  • examine potential ecosystem services – i.e. whether kelp, mussels or artificial reefs can serve as food, shelter or other things
  • identiy formal obstacles for multiuse initatives

"We are very happy to receive funding from the EU, and look forward to taking on this exciting project", says Lock.