The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is the lead federal agency for offshore energy exploration and development. NOAA Fisheries is the lead federal agency charged with stewardship of marine life. Building, operating, and decommissioning offshore wind power plants affects a number of our key mission areas, including: fisheries, protected animals (such as sea turtles and whales), seabirds, and marine habitats. We provide information to help the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management make informed decisions about offshore wind energy development and operations. Specifically, we:
- Provide data and analyses.
- Provide input and review throughout the One Federal Decision process, a cooperative relationship among federal agencies for timely processing of environmental reviews and authorization decisions on proposed major infrastructure projects.
- Advance scientific understanding.
- Foster management decisions that promote coexistence among competing uses while minimizing adverse impacts to our trust resources.
Regulatory Authority for NOAA Involvement
We work with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and offshore wind developers to ensure the protection of and to determine how offshore wind projects affect endangered or threatened species, marine mammals, fisheries, marine habitats, and fishing communities. Our authorities derive from:
- Endangered Species Act.
- Marine Mammal Protection Act.
- Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act.
NOAA Fisheries New England/Mid-Atlantic Regional Activities
NOAA Fisheries provides expertise and advice to regulators, developers, and stakeholders as we work toward a more diverse energy future. To ensure we are prepared, we have established an internal wind energy team. It’s their job to coordinate resources, participation, and communications on wind energy development issues among NOAA staff and our collaborators. To leverage our capacity for addressing wind energy development, we are working with partners including:
- Regional fishery management councils and commission
- Responsible Offshore Development Alliance
- Responsible Offshore Science Alliance
- International Council for Exploration of the Sea’s Working Group on Offshore Wind Development and Fisheries
The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance is leading development of a state-of-the-science symposium and workshop to facilitate regional planning.
We have initiated scientific work in several study areas that will help support decision making:
Biology and Ecology
- Tracking spawning Atlantic cod and other commercial fish species along the Southern New England wind energy areas using underwater acoustic technology.
- Studying how black sea bass respond to offshore wind pile driving and other marine construction noise at different life stages.
- Building an area-specific habitat database.
- Using fine-scale fishery data to evaluate and predict the potential impact of offshore wind energy development on fishery operations.
- Analyzing affected commercial and recreational fishing activity to make economic impact information available to planners, developers, and regulators.
Marine Mammals, Sea Birds, Sea Turtles
- We are evaluating marine habitat use by these animals off the East Coast with particular emphasis on wind lease areas.
Recommendations for Mapping Fish Habitat
- Read our recommended steps for mapping seafloor habitat to ensure the information collected for offshore wind development projects is sufficient for BOEM to meet requirements for the Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) consultation under the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. This information is not intended to replace BOEM’s existing guidance, but rather to clarify and supplement guidance provided through BOEM Benthic Survey Guidelines.
- We have established a NOAA Fisheries internal working group to identify what will be required to adapt our resources surveys in order to continue data collection in areas where offshore wind energy development occurs.