The U.S. NOAA Fisheries has started a study of Atlantic cod and other commercial fish in Southern New England to gather data on the potential impact of offshore wind development on the species.
As part of the three-year study, an autonomous underwater glider is surveying areas in and around Cox’s Ledge, including the South Fork wind energy lease area south of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Researchers will tag up to 100 spawning cod with acoustic transmitters that the glider can detect to identify areas where spawning is occurring.
Sensors on the glider will also collect detailed environmental data to better understand the temperature preferences and habitat use of Atlantic cod off Southern New England.
According to project lead Sofie Van Parijs, there is little information on Atlantic cod spawning specific to Southern New England waters. Cod elsewhere are known to form large, dense spawning aggregations in predictable locations relatively close to shore, where they can be vulnerable to the disturbance that might affect spawning success.
“Biological sampling will determine the population’s onset of spawning and track growth, maturity, age structure, and other life history parameters,” Van Parijs said.
“This information will help inform the starting date for our glider surveys each year. We will tentatively conduct these surveys from December through March this year and for longer periods in the subsequent two years.”
According to NOAA, a glider deployed in late December 2019 has been at sea for 3 months, surveying the area three times, detecting whale vocalizations and fish carrying acoustic tags.
Ørsted will use glider detection of endangered whales to help with the monitoring and mitigation requirements in the South Fork wind energy lease area.
The 130MW South Fork wind farm will comprise 15 turbines. Once permits are in-hand, local construction work would begin in 2021, with the commissioning scheduled for the end of 2022.