The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) have released a draft strategy for the protection of endangered North American right whales amid growth in the domestic offshore wind industry.
The draft strategy identifies the agencies’ goals and objectives to better understand the effects of offshore wind development on right whale populations and their habitat, providing a clear path forward to expand upon existing efforts to understand, mitigate and monitor potential impacts.
“BOEM is deeply committed to ensuring responsible offshore wind energy development while protecting and promoting the recovery of the North Atlantic right whale. Working with NOAA Fisheries on this draft strategy leverages the resources and expertise of both agencies to collect and apply the best available scientific information to inform our decisions,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “We’re seeking open and honest feedback from the public to help us evaluate and improve this effort.”
The draft strategy identifies three main goals: 1) mitigation and decision-support tools, 2) research and monitoring, and 3) collaboration, communication and outreach. The strategy also establishes the agencies’ plans to engage stakeholders, partners and other ocean users on these issues.
Estimates suggest there are fewer than 350 North Atlantic right whales remaining, with fewer than 100 breeding females. The whales face a number from threats, including entanglement in fishing gear, vessel strikes, climate change, and the impacts of ocean noise on their ability to communicate, find food, and navigate. Since 2017, the North Atlantic right whale population has been seeing higher-than-usual mortality rates, mainly from rope entanglements or vessel strikes.
“As we face the ongoing challenges of climate change, this strategy provides a strong foundation to help us advance renewable energy while also working to protect and recover North Atlantic right whales, and the ecosystem they depend on,” said Janet Coit, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries and acting assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere at NOAA. “Responsible development of renewable energy sources and protecting endangered North Atlantic right whales are priorities both agencies share.”
The announcement of the joint strategy opens a 45-day public review and comment period that closes on December 4, 2022.
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