WASHINGTON – Building on existing initiatives to study and assess impacts of offshore wind energy development on the North Atlantic right whale, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is fostering multiple federal and state partnerships that will inform and strengthen protections for this endangered species.
For more than a decade, BOEM has funded independent research studies and formed partnerships to better assess potential offshore wind energy development impacts on protected species. These studies collect broadscale baseline distribution, behavioral, and ecological data on protected species in general, as well as on North Atlantic right whales.
As offshore wind energy development expands in the Atlantic, BOEM is engaging with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to develop a science and management strategy to protect and promote the recovery of North Atlantic right whales while responsibly developing offshore wind energy. The strategy will identify existing and needed collaborative research, mitigation requirements and regional-scale monitoring to help minimize impacts to this critically endangered species. BOEM expects to provide a draft strategy later this year for stakeholder input.
BOEM and NOAA are also working with partners to develop a regional passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) network to identify the larger scale movements and distribution of marine mammals, including the North Atlantic right whale. In addition, real-time PAM systems will be deployed to detect animals in the vicinity of construction operations and prompt site-specific mitigation measures designed to reduce the impacts of offshore wind energy projects on marine species.
BOEM is also working with NOAA Fisheries on a Federal Survey Mitigation Implementation Strategy that will describe steps to limit the impact of offshore wind energy development on NOAA Fisheries survey activities including those for North Atlantic right whales.
These efforts align with the recent interagency memorandum between BOEM and NOAA that will leverage the responsibilities, expertise and relationships of both agencies in support of the Biden-Harris administration’s offshore wind energy goals while protecting biodiversity and promoting cooperative ocean use.
"BOEM is deeply committed to ensuring responsible offshore wind energy development and to protecting marine species, like the North Atlantic right whale. Continued collaboration with our federal and non-federal partners is essential to our success in both endeavors,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “These partnerships embody the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to confronting the climate crisis and sustaining our oceans for future generations.”
BOEM is also collaborating on several other research initiatives related to the North Atlantic right whale and offshore wind energy development. For more than seven years, BOEM has partnered with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) on right whale aerial surveys around and within the designated Wind Energy Areas offshore Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
In response to stakeholder requests, BOEM, MassCEC, and other state, federal and private funders recently agreed to help fund one additional year of targeted aerial surveys to augment the existing survey series. Throughout 2022, when researchers observe groupings of North Atlantic right whales during aerial surveys, they will also conduct separate focused and directed surveys on the identified aggregations to improve BOEM’s understanding of the whales’ behavior.
The funding extension will allow time for regional partnerships to address this long-term data need and reinforces BOEM’s commitment to collaborate with the Regional Wildlife Science Entity to determine the best path forward for North Atlantic right whale research.
This current survey effort includes funding from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Maine Community Foundation. Discussions are ongoing for further funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. State funding for the surveys has been facilitated by the Regional Wildlife Science Entity.
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The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is responsible for America’s offshore energy and mineral resources. The bureau promotes energy independence, environmental protection and economic development through responsible, science-based management of energy and mineral resources on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.