A study of roughly 60 brown crabs at St. Abbs Marine Station in the Scottish Borders recently found higher electromagnetism levels caused cellular changes through underwater cables in crustaceans, particularly crabs, affecting blood cells.

An Evening Standard report specified that scientists have found that underwater power cables are attracting brown crabs and lead to biological changes, which could result in greater infection risk.

Such cables for offshore renewable energy release electromagnetic fields that entice the crabs and result in them sitting still.

According to Heriot-Watt University's Alastair Lyndon, underwater cables produce an electromagnetic field.  When it is at a 500-microTeslas strength and above, which is approximately five percent of a fridge door magnet's strength, added the expert, the crabs appear to be enticed to it and remain sitting still.

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Science Times - Underwater Cables Attract Crabs: How Do Biological Changes Result from Electromagnetic Field Emitted by Renewable Energy?
(Photo: © Hans Hillewaert on Wikimedia Commons)
The Cable Innovator at work at the Thornton C-Power Wind Farm, Belgium.

Electromagnetic Field Strength Levels

A similar Sky News report said Lyndon also explained that's not a problem in itself. However, if they are not moving, they are not scavenging for food neither searching for a mate.

The change in activity levels leads to changes as well in sugar metabolism. Meaning, they store more sugar and yield less lactate, just like how humans do.

In their study published in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, the study authors used the purpose-built aquarium laboratory of the marine station for investigation.

St. Abbs Marine Station's Kevin Scott said the aquarium lab comprises non-metallic materials, meaning marginal electromagnetic interference.

Scott also explained that exposure to higher electromagnetic field strength levels changed the number of blood cells in the bodies of the crabs. More so, he said, this could have a range of implications, such as making them more vulnerable to microbial infection.

Changes in the Species' Behavior

The research team has warned that changes in the behavior of the species could hit fishing markets, as the crabs are not the second most valuable crustacean catch in the United Kingdom and the most valuable coastal catch.

Essentially, several offshore wind farms are installed and planned around the coast of Scotland, which necessitate extensive underwater cabling, and scientists have said more extensive research is needed to guarantee that they do not destabilize the brown crab population of Scotland.

According to Lyndon, male brown crabs are migrating up Scotland's east coast. If miles of underwater cabling had proven quite a struggle to resist, "they will stay put," Intelliphants reported.

He added, this could mean there's a buildup of male crabs in the south of Scotland and a scarcity of them in the islands and the northeast, where they are incredibly essential for the livelihoods and local economies fishermen.

The expert also explained one solution would be the burying of cables in the seafloor, although he warned it could be costly. Meaning, maintenance is more challenging, and it cannot be done in certain areas.

Lastly, Lyndon said, they need to investigate more extensively technical solutions for them to create negative ecological impacts while attempting to decarbonize the energy supply.

Relate information about underwater cables is shown on CBS Morning's YouTube video below:


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