The offshore waters of southern New England have long supported populations of highly migratory fish species, or “HMS” for short — including sharks, tunas, and billfishes — during the warm months of summer and fall. These productive waters not only serve as important feeding grounds and migratory corridors for numerous pelagic species but are also popular recreational fishing grounds. Each year hundreds of fishing vessels actively pursue iconic HMS like bluefin and yellowfin tuna, white marlin, and shortfin mako sharks across this region. However, these fish and recreational fishermen will soon have to share southern New England offshore waters with a new resident: offshore wind turbines.
Currently, the extent to which offshore wind development and operations will affect HMS, and HMS-directed fisheries, by extension, is not well understood. For example, it’s unclear whether or how the presence of wind turbine generators will affect the residency or movements of HMS in southern New England. Will HMS foraging success be impacted? Will HMS be displaced from wind energy areas due to the singular or cumulative effects sourced from pre-construction surveying, wind farm construction, or electromagnetic fields produced during operation?
As a first step towards answering these questions, INSPIRE Environmental and the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, with funding from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, conducted a pilot acoustic telemetry monitoring study on HMS presence and movement in the southern New England wind energy area. The specific goals of this study were two-fold: (1) to collect baseline (or pre-construction) information about when and how HMS use popular fishing grounds within the area leased for offshore wind development, and (2) to test the performance of acoustic telemetry as a long-term monitoring technique.
Colored circles indicate when that species was observed at a given receiver. Colored vertical lines represent the time individuals of each species were first tagged in each year. The black “X” represents the time when the receiver was deployed, and the red “X" represents the time it was removed for the season.