Agreement Reached to Protect Whales Amid Offshore Wind Project

Aerial survey of North Atlantic Right Whales courtesy of New England Aquarium, taken under NEFSC permit #25739

HYANNIS – The New England Aquarium recently announced that it is partnering with Cornell University and wind energy consultant LAUTEC US on a project to better assess the relationship between offshore wind developments and the habitats of critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales.

Although the full impact of wind development on whales is unknown, pile driving activities associated with offshore wind projects could potentially force whales from their habitat and disrupt important behaviors such as feeding and socializing.

The Right Wind project would utilize the expertise of the three organizations to model right whale habitat, calculate risks posed to right whales by wind development, and assess financial risks associated with such projects.

“We’re excited to be starting this project because it gives us an opportunity to develop tools that can help reduce the potential risks of wind energy development to North Atlantic Right Whales, a critically endangered species that numbers less than 350 individuals,” said Dr. Laura Ganley, associate research scientist at the New England Aquarium.

By combining Cornell’s acoustic data and the New England Aquarium’s aerial survey data and habitat modeling with LAUTEC’s knowledge of offshore wind planning the trio seeks to create a decision support tool to help developers and environmental advocates balance whale conservation with wind development.

“What’s exciting is that this is arguably one of the most intensively studied offshore wind areas along the U.S. Atlantic Coast,” said Dr. Aaron Rice at Cornell University.

“This project provides the perfect opportunity to leverage the extensive survey data ad incorporate it into marine spatial planning,” he said, “while balancing industry planning with minimizing impacts to endangered species such as North Atlantic Right Whales.”

The Right Wind project is funded through the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium.

By, Matthew Tomlinson, NewsCenter

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