Wind farms or pipelines installed offshore apparently serve as appealing hunting grounds and artificial reefs for seals, as proven by a recent study that shows these marine animals are drawn to these manmade structures repeatedly.

Wind farms are sets of wind turbines that make use of the energy of the wind to generate electricity.

"The data strongly suggest that these structures were used for foraging and the directed movements show that animals could effectively navigate to and between structures," reads the study titled Marine mammals trace anthropogenic structures at sea.

The researchers were able to prove this for the very first time with the use of a high-tech GPS tracking that monitors each movement of seals.

"I was shocked when I first saw the stunning grid pattern of a seal track around Sheringham Shoal," Deborah Russell from University of St. Andrews says in a statement. "You could see that the individual appeared to travel in straight lines between turbines, as if he was checking them out for potential prey and then stopping to forage at certain ones."

Sheringham Shoal is a UK wind farm offshore.

Along with her colleagues, Russell marked gray and harbor seals on the North Sea’s Dutch and British coasts. Results of the study showed that 11 harbor seals where within two wind farms that are active namely, Sheringham Shoal in southeast UK and Alpha Ventus in Germany.

In these two areas, several seals entered the wind farms frequently and even showed in certain cases remarkable grid-like patterns of movement, as the seals seemed to hunt at the individual turbines. They also observed that both types of seals associated with subsea pipelines. In the Netherlands, two seals chanced upon a pipeline section and went to follow it on numerous trips for as long as 10 days at a time. However, only a small ratio of the seals in study utilized the pipelines or wind farms, says Russell.

The researchers say it’s unclear what will be the implications of this for seals and its target as the number of active wind farms also continues to develop. Regardless, they will continue the quest for answers to completely understand the consequences on population of these huge planned developments and will take into consideration other possible factors in the study.

The Current Biology, a journal of Cell Press, published the said study on July 21.

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