Considering the increase in human activity in the North Sea, particularly cargo shipping and the rapidly expanding construction and operation of oil platforms and wind farms, as well as the continued use of the area for military purposes, fisheries and sand extraction, there is a growing concern about the potentially harmful impacts of such anthropogenic activities on marine life. Particular concerns have been raised about the effect of loud impulse sounds and high noise levels, which may affect marine animal life in different ways: habitat use, such as feeding and migration, and reproduction patterns may be disturbed. In the extreme case animals may suffer from sub-lethal or lethal physical damage such as hearing loss and disrupted swim ladders. Knowledge of the spatial distribution and seasonal patterns in the presence of different life stages of marine species is therefore critical for assessing to what extent the dispersion of marine life overlaps with the distribution of human activities and for estimating how potentially harmful impacts can be mitigated both spatially and temporally. The aim of this desk study is consequently to provide a concise overview of existing information on seasonal patterns in the dispersion of fish species in the North Sea, in particular by highlighting the knowledge gaps.
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