The scheme will kick off in the Borkum Riffgat offshore wind farm now under construction some 15 kilometers to the northwest of the island of Borkum on the German-Dutch border. Because the wind turbines are relatively close to the coastline, project owner EWE has to pay compensation to the state of Lower Saxony for damaging the ecosystem.
A total of €700,000 of this compensation is now being funneled into the BAH's 3-year pilot project, and 3,000 lobsters are set to be released this year into the sea at the foot of the wind turbines. Crucially, lobsters' survival depends on a firm seabed, which is a rarity in the silt of the German Bight. Fortunately, some of the foundations of the 30 wind turbines are protected by rock fill which serves as an ideal habitat for the fledgling lobster populations.
Initially, just four of these rock piles, which span 400 to 500 square meters, will double as lobster habitats. The scientists calculate that each square meter can provide a home to up to five lobsters.
Lobsters play an important role within the North Sea's ecosystem. As omnivores, they top the food chain, thriving on algae, mussels, snails and worms and ensuring that other species never get out of hand. The BAH researchers will research whether the lobsters will eat each other in the restricted confines of the wind turbine foundations. But Franke is optimistic: "Lobsters recognize one another by smell. Once they have tested their strength against one another, they accept the results."