Vessel traffic poses a collision risk to marine mammals and sea turtles, which, when struck, can lead to serious injury and mortality. There is an overlap between marine mammal and sea turtle distributions with offshore wind (OSW) energy development, which is accompanied by an increase in vessel activity from ports and within lease areas. Vessel traffic associated with wind energy development therefore poses a collision risk to these species. CSA Ocean Sciences Inc. (CSA), together with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), developed a risk assessment tool to model the potential strike risk associated with OSW vessel operations on large whale and sea turtle species on the Atlantic outer continental shelf. The risk assessment tool and underlying model determines the expected number of animals at risk for encounter by whale and turtle species based on a user’s input criteria, allowing scenario development and comparative testing in an easy-to-use, spatially registered framework.
Following the initial publication of the risk assessment tool and accompanying report in 2021, CSA conducted comprehensive sensitivity testing and incorporated updates based on the best available scientific data. An updated tool was released in 2022. Ms. Tara Stevens, Project Scientist at CSA’s Northeast Regional Office in Rhode Island, will present an application of the updated risk assessment tool at the upcoming American Cetacean Society’s 2022 “Whales in a Sea of Troubles” themed conference in San Diego, California, November 4-6. The poster presentation will illustrate how project design or operational considerations could be assessed to implement vessel risk reduction strategies, thereby demonstrating the model as a powerful tool that could be used to inform important decision making at planning, impact assessment, and operational project levels.
More information on BOEM’s Renewable Energy Research completed studies is available.
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