MassCEC, in partnership with U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), has completed three years of marine wildlife surveys to guide and expedite the federal permitting process for offshore wind development, and to support the deployment of offshore wind in Massachusetts in an environmentally responsible manner.
The studies found no significant conflicts between wildlife and offshore wind development in the federally designated wind energy areas beginning 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and identified opportunities to minimize impacts to marine wildlife in those areas. The large whale and sea turtle survey team was based at the New England Aquarium and a second team from the College of Staten Island conducted the seabird surveys.
The surveys greatly expanded the existing understanding of wildlife presence and activity in the wind energy area. Some details from the studies include:
- The whale and turtle data was collected from 76 aerial surveys conducted in the study area between October 2011 and June 2015. The data was supplemented by over 1,000 days of continuous underwater acoustic recording for whales.
- Researchers from the New England Aquarium sighted North Atlantic right whales, a critically endangered species in the study area only during winter and spring, from December through April, with a peak in March.
- The North Atlantic right whales primarily migrate into the area and engage in short-term feeding before moving onto feeding grounds elsewhere throughout the Gulf of Maine.
- Researchers from the College of Staten Island recorded 25 species of seabirds from a total of 38 aerial surveys conducted between November 2011 and January 2015.
- Two locations, known as “hotspots”, were identified where larger than average aggregations of seabirds occurred on a regular basis. Both hotspots were located outside the federal wind energy areas.