AT-22-X15: Marine Species Surveys in Support of Massachusetts Offshore Wind Development
Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
The purpose of this study is to provide funding through a cooperative agreement to continue the 10-year time series of aerial survey data within and surrounding the Massachusetts and Rhode Island offshore wind energy leases. Additional aerial and/or passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) surveys may occur contingent upon future funding. These surveys will contribute to providing the data needed to detect any changes in habitat utilization of large pelagic marine species by comparing the time series of data pre-construction to post construction data that may be collected. Surveys are currently funded through August 2022 after which a new cooperative agreement would be required to continue these important surveys. The surveys provide an essential baseline understanding of the distributions and abundances of North Atlantic Right Whales and other large whales, sea turtles, and birds in the Massachusetts and Rhode Island wind energy leases. This research will help further characterize species’ usage of the MA Offshore Wind Energy Area in order to assist the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the federal government in assessing the location and configuration of future offshore wind energy development. Under the National Environmental Policy Act, BOEM and other federal agencies are required to review environmental assessments of offshore development and construction plans to identify and mitigate potential effects of development on marine species. This time series of consistent survey effort provides the information on the abundance and distribution of marine mammals and turtles in the survey area that are needed for these assessments. This information can also help wind energy developers plan the timing of activities, such as turbine construction, to minimize impacts on protected species.