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"Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem."

-A.A. Milne

Effects of Offshore Wind Energy on Fish and Invertebrates

Black Sea Bass

Black Sea Bass (Photo credit: Greg McFall/NOAA/NOS/GRNMS)

In collaboration with NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center Sandy Hook laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the effects of the renewable energy industry (e.g. construction noise of offshore windfarms) on the behavior of black sea bass and longfin squid will be examined. The objective of this study is to characterize and replicate the acoustic signals from construction and operation of an offshore wind facility and evaluate the effects of noise on commercially and recreationally important fish. The project will evaluate the behavioral and physiological effects imposed on the economically important black sea bass and the longfin squid in the presence of the reproduced acoustic signal that is expected to occur during the construction and general operation of an offshore wind facility. This study will aid in evaluating acoustic impacts that may reduce the quality of essential fish habitat necessary to fish for feeding and breeding. This work will be done in aquarium facilities at our Sandy Hook Laboratory and at WHOI.

Black sea bass (Centropristis striata) support a valuable commercial and recreational fishery in the North, Mid, and South Atlantic renewable energy planning areas and show an attraction towards certain structurally complex habitats including rocky reefs, cobble and rock fields, stone coral patches, exposed stiff clay, and mussel beds as well as artificial habitat created by marine debris and shipwrecks. Some of these habitats occur within the current renewable energy lease and planning areas either seasonally or year-round depending water temperature. Commercial and recreational fishermen have expressed concern that sound produced during benthic surveys, pile driving and operation of renewable energy facilities may be having negative effects on the behavior of black sea bass, causing changes in catchability and potential long-term sub-lethal behavioral impacts such as flight from disturbed feeding and spawning habitats and disruption of intraspecific communication. Black sea bass are believed to communicate acoustically, especially during spawning behavior, however there is no published literature describing this acoustic behavior or their hearing sensitivities and behavioral responses to natural or anthropogenic sound.

The longfin inshore squid (Doryteuthis pealeii) also has the potential to be impacted by acoustic disturbance from offshore wind development. Longfin squid is a short-lived (~ 1 year), semelparous cephalopod species. It is migratory, pelagic and a well-established model species for sensory ecology and neurobiological investigations (Hanlon et al, in press). This is the primary commercial cephalopod species of the western north Atlantic at approximately 16.6 metric tons and $41 million per year since 2000. The species is consumed by a wide range predators and is considered an ecologically key prey item for a variety of marine mammals, seabird and finfish taxa. Fishery stakeholders have expressed concern that summer spawning on the continental shelf could be disrupted by acoustic disturbance from offshore wind construction and operation.

Partners: NOAA NEFSC Sandy Hook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Primary Funders: Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM)
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