Massachusetts and Rhode Island Wind Energy Areas Avoid High Concentrations of Protected Species
10-25-2016 WASHINGTON, Contacts: Tracey Moriarty, 703-787-1571
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) announce the results of two new multi-year marine wildlife survey efforts that focus on collecting baseline biological occurrence and distribution data for whale, turtle, and bird species within the Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) offshore Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The wildlife surveys found that the Massachusetts and Rhode Island WEAs avoid the high concentrations of protected species of whales, turtles and seabirds in these areas.
“BOEM remains deeply committed to ensuring that renewable energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf is done in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” said BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper. “The survey results confirm that responsible commercial wind development activities in these WEAs will not adversely affect protected species populations.”
Waters offshore Massachusetts and Rhode Island are important for many species year-round, including breeding, non-breeding and migratory periods. Baseline knowledge of wildlife distributions and habitat use are key to making environmentally responsible decisions. These data can be used to identify important habitat areas, guide siting decisions for future development and inform environmental permitting requirements and mitigation efforts, aimed at minimizing effects from these activities to wildlife.
“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.”
Highlights from the two surveys include:
- The whale and turtle data were collected from 76 aerial surveys conducted in the survey area between October 2011 and June 2015. The data were supplemented by more than 1,000 days of continuous underwater acoustic recording for whales.
- Researchers from the New England Aquarium sighted 60 North Atlantic right whales, a critically endangered species, over the entire survey 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.
- Leatherback sea turtles were most highly concentrated south of Nantucket between May and November.
- 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, referred to as “hotspots”, were identified where larger than average aggregations of seabirds occurred on a regular basis. Both hotspots were located outside the WEAs.
To view the final reports, please visit our website at:
- Northeast Large Pelagic Survey Collaborative Aerial and Acoustic Surveys for Large Whales and Sea Turtles: www.boem.gov/RI-MA-Whales-Turtles/
- Abundance and Distribution of Seabirds off Southeastern Massachusetts, 2011-2015: www.boem.gov/RI-MA-Seabirds/
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) promotes economic development, energy independence, and environmental protection through responsible, science-based management of offshore conventional and renewable energy development.