Offshore windmills and the effects of electromagnetic fields on fish

Ambio. 2007 Dec;36(8):630-3. doi: 10.1579/0044-7447(2007)36[630:owateo];2.


With the large scale developments of offshore windpower the number of underwater electric cables is increasing with various technologies applied. A wind farm is associated with different types of cables used for intraturbine, array-to-transformer, and transformer-to-shore transmissions. As the electric currents in submarine cables induce electromagnetic fields there is a concern of how they may influence fishes. Studies have shown that there are fish species that are magneto-sensitive using geomagnetic field information for the purpose of orientation. This implies that if the geomagnetic field is locally altered it could influence spatial patterns in fish. There are also physiological aspects to consider, especially for species that are less inclined to move as the exposure could be persistent in a particular area. Even though studies have shown that magnetic fields could affect fish, there is at present limited evidence that fish are influenced by the electromagnetic fields that underwater cables from windmills generate. Studies on European eel in the Baltic Sea have indicated some minor effects. In this article we give an overview on the type of submarine cables that are used for electric transmissions in the sea. We also describe the character of the magnetic fields they induce. The effects of magnetic fields on fish are reviewed and how this may relate to the cables used for offshore wind power is discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Energy-Generating Resources*
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Fresh Water
  • Seawater
  • Wind*