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Offshore Wind Energy Development in New England/Mid-Atlantic Waters

Offshore wind development is rapidly expanding along the Atlantic coast of the United States, especially from Massachusetts to North Carolina. This is a new use of our marine waters, requiring substantial scientific and regulatory review by NOAA Fisheries.

Wind generators off Block Island.

NOAA’s Role

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) 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 related to fishing activities, ocean conditions, and affected marine resources.
  • Provide input and review throughout the regulatory process, working as a cooperating agency to assist BOEM in their development of an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act.
  • Conduct research and monitoring to better understand the potential effects of offshore wind energy development on marine habitats, fisheries, protected resources, and their ecosystems.
  • Providing BOEM, other federal agencies, states, tribes, and stakeholders with information on fisheries operations and the potential socioeconomic impacts of offshore wind projects on fishing communities.
  • 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 BOEM, other federal and state agencies, and stakeholders to assess and how offshore wind projects affect endangered or threatened species, marine mammals, fisheries, marine habitats, and fishing communities and work to protect these important resources. Our authorities derive from:

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
  • Regional Wildlife Science Entity

We have initiated scientific work in several study areas that will help support decision making:

Biology and Ecology

Fisheries

  • 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.
  • Interested in hearing more? Try this podcast, produced by the American Saltwater Guides Association, featuring one of our wind team members.

Marine Mammals, Sea Birds, Sea Turtles

Technical Guidance for Offshore Wind Energy Projects in the Greater Atlantic Region

  • Resources for action agencies to help with their analysis of the effects of proposed offshore wind projects in the Greater Atlantic Region.

NOAA Fishery Surveys

  • 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.
  • This working group is supporting the work of the Science Center’s Survey Simulation Experimentation and Evaluation Project (SSEEP). The SSEEP Project is being supported by NMFS, BOEM, and the Cooperative Institute for the North Atlantic Region. This effort is aimed to evaluate changes in the federal bottom trawl survey due to offshore wind development. For more information please contact Philip Politis at philip.politis@noaa.gov or Andy Lipsky at andrew.lipsky@noaa.gov.
  • NOAA Fisheries and BOEM are in the process of developing a programmatic approach to address the adverse impacts of offshore wind development on NOAA Fisheries' scientific surveys. NOAA and BOEM are preparing a Federal Survey Mitigation Implementation Strategy.  

Resources

data

Socioeconomic Impacts of Atlantic Offshore Wind Development

NOAA Fisheries developed reports summarizing fishing activity from 2008-2018/2019 within each offshore wind lease or project area along the U.S…

Last updated by Northeast Fisheries Science Center on August 04, 2022