US Federal Agencies Release North Atlantic Right Whale and Offshore Wind Strategy

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries have released a final joint strategy to protect and promote the recovery of endangered North Atlantic right whales while developing offshore wind energy.

Tim Cole/NOAA Fisheries, NEFSC

North Atlantic right whales are approaching extinction and approximately 360 individuals are remaining, including fewer than 70 reproductively active females, the agencies said.

“Right whales are endangered and climate change is impacting every aspect of their survival – from changing ocean habitat, prey availability and affecting migratory patterns – making the transition to cleaner, renewable energy critically important,” said Janet Coit, NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator.

The draft strategy, issued in 2022, was developed to support the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of deploying 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030.

The final strategy identifies several actions under three main goals: mitigation and decision-support tools; research and monitoring; and collaboration, communication, and outreach.

These goals and actions will allow continued, coordinated, and efficient collaborations between BOEM, NOAA Fisheries, and its partners; collection and application of the best available scientific information and data insights to inform future decisions, including monitoring and mitigation programs; and implementation of effective measures to reduce risk and avoid and minimize impacts to North Atlantic right whales, according to the agencies.

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Immediate impact mitigation efforts include avoiding leasing in areas that may impact potential North Atlantic right whale habitat and high-use areas and providing guidance to developers on conducting robust sound field verification to ensure that noise levels expected from offshore wind activities do not exceed thresholds for certain activities, according to the agencies.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to ensuring offshore wind energy development is done in a responsible manner. That’s why we have increased our efforts to develop a strategy – based on the best available science – that will allow us to protect the North Atlantic right whale while meeting our offshore wind goals that are necessary to curb climate change and protect the environment,” said Elizabeth Klein, BOEM Director.


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