A present the future of the British Harbour Porpoise is mired in a ding-dong of a battle within the UK civil service concerning the siting of a major wind farm. This is the Hornsea Two project, consisting of 300 giant turbines built 55 miles off the coast of Yorkshire which would produce prodigious quantities of underwater sound as well as electricity.
The department supporting it, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is now being resisted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) who want to designate a 14,000 square mile tranche of the North Sea — including the proposed wind farm area — as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
There would be many species benefiting from such a SAC, but none more so than the Harbour Porpoise, the most prevalent marine animal in British waters. Let us hope that DEFRA wins. It’s not as though the electricity from wind farms is desperately needed, especially when it costs three times the normal price and especially when we’re already sitting on hundreds of times the potential energy in the form of shale gas..
Porpoises are worth protecting. They are badly affected by noise and any viable species needs a territory large enough to hold all its gene variations. We know that the Harbour Porpoise is more intelligent than most species. Its brain cortex is even more crinkled than ours so this bespeaks substantial processing power.
Until we have devised the appropriate technology to talk with porpoises we won’t know quite how intelligent they are and quite what sort of intelligence they have. This particular SAC is surely one where we have to start drawing a line.