Maritime Shorts: Projects focus on offshore wind, whales, lobsters

Right Wind project 

BOSTON — The New England Aquarium is partnering with Cornell University and LAUTEC US to develop a decision support tool that helps offshore wind developers protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale. 

The Right Wind project, funded through the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium, aims to develop tools that can be used to understand and resolve conflicts between wind development and right whale protections. The three organizations will pool their expertise to model right whale habitat, assess risks to right whales associated with wind development and assess the financial risks of uncertainty in habitat models. 

Wind energy areas overlap with existing North Atlantic right whale habitat and migratory corridors, and habitat changes in recent years have led to uncertainty about where and when right whales might show up. The full impacts of wind development activities on whales are unknown, but pile-driving activities have the potential to displace whales from their habitat, increase stress hormones and disrupt behaviors such as feeding and socializing. 


UMaine, lobster industry team up 

ORONO — The University of Maine is leading a new research project to collaborate with Maine’s lobster industry to explore the potential to use data owned by commercial lobstermen to map fishing effort. These data may be used to minimize conflict from potential future offshore wind development. 

Participants in Maine’s commercial fisheries are concerned that offshore wind development could result in lost fishing grounds and pose significant navigation and safety concerns. While Maine’s lobster fishery accounted for 82 percent of the value of Maine’s commercial seafood landings in 2021, there are no comprehensive data on where and when Maine lobstermen fish. To minimize the impact on Maine’s lobster fishery, better data are needed on the location, type and intensity of fishing activity in the Gulf of Maine. 

The researchers hope to build a software system that will aggregate and parse the data from various commercial systems in order for the lobster industry to be able to best inform regional energy development, fishery stock assessments, protected species management and other pressing management issues. 

Moreover, if the project is successful in both data collecting and anonymizing, it could build trust among fishermen, scientists and fishery managers in further developing fine scale spatial data for use in decision making. 

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