Study: No Significant Threats to Wildlife From Offshore Wind Development

windfarmBOSTON – State and federal officials have released a pair of studies that found no significant threats to marine wildlife from offshore wind development.

The studies, which were an effort by MassCEC and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy, found no significant threats to endangered whale, turtle or bird species in federal wind energy areas which start 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.

The studies also identified opportunities to minimize impacts to marine wildlife in those areas.

Researchers conducted to the surveys using underwater acoustical buoys as well as aircraft flights staffed with observers.

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 studied impacts on seabirds.

“As the Commonwealth begins to harness the benefits of offshore wind power generation, it is imperative that we balance innovation with our obligation of environmental stewardship for the waters surrounding our state,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “These studies will streamline the permitting process for an emerging energy growth sector while protecting the environment so the Commonwealth can solidify its position as a hub of energy innovation while creating high-quality jobs and providing cost-effective power for ratepayers.”

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 more than 1,000 days of continuous underwater acoustic recording for whales.

Throughout their observations, researchers from the New England Aquarium sighted 60 North Atlantic right whales, a critically endangered species, over the entire study only during winter and spring.

The North Atlantic right whales primarily migrate into the area and engage in short-term feeding before moving onto feeding grounds 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.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has lease agreements with three offshore wind developers – Deepwater Wind, DONG Energy, and Offshore MW – to build projects in the federal waters south of Massachusetts. 

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