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EMF and Marine Organisms Public Deposited

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  • Electromagnetic fields (EMF) originate from both natural and anthropogenic sources. In the sea, natural sources include the Earth’s magnetic field, sea and tidal currents traveling through that field, and various processes within organisms. Electricity moving along cables and various other devices (as a part of renewable offshore energy development) produces both electric and electromagnetic fields. In addition, water currents and organisms moving through human-induced EMF create electric fields. The larger the organism and the closer it is to the cable, the larger the induced electric field. A potential issue is that some organisms detect electric and/or magnetic fields. Electric fields are detected by cartilaginous fishes (sharks, skates, and rays), as well as ratfishes, sturgeons, and paddlefishes. Some experiments imply that sea lamprey, European river lamprey, European eels, and Atlantic salmon can also detect these fields, although these taxa appear to be much less sensitive than the cartilaginous fishes, sturgeons, and paddlefishes. These animals use this capability for prey and mate detection and perhaps orientation. Among marine organisms, the ability to detect magnetic fields is known to occur in fishes (e.g., eel, trout, salmon, tuna, and sharks) as well as lobsters, turtles, and cetaceans. Several behavioral and physiological experiments imply that rockfishes and flatfishes might also be able to sense magnetic fields. Research implies that organisms may be able to sense EMF down to a few microteslas. Magnetic field detection is likely used by these organisms for orientation, navigation, and homing. It has been hypothesized that anthropogenic EMF might have some or all of the following effects on marine organisms: 1) Disrupt migrations and movements of marine organisms; 2) Disrupt successful search for prey; 3) Disrupt successful search for mates; 4) Disrupt successful avoidance of predators. To this end, we will first discuss the quite limited laboratory and field research available on this issue. We will then present the early results of our surveys that compare the fish and invertebrate assemblages inhabiting electrified and non-electrified cables in the Santa Barbara Channel, southern California.
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  • Love, M., A. Bull & D. Schroeder. 2012. EMF and Marine Organisms. In: Boehlert, G., C. Braby, A. S. Bull, M. E. Helix, S. Henkel, P. Klarin, and D. Schroeder, eds. 2013. Oregon Marine Renewable Energy Environmental Science Conference Proceedings. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Cooperative Agreement with Oregon State University M12AC00012. OCS Report BOEM 2013-0113. 149 pp.
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  • U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
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