Seven Fisheries Studies for the New Jersey Offshore Wind Project

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The developers of New Jersey’s first offshore wind project say they will spend nearly $13 million on fisheries monitoring surveys in cooperation with three universities.

Ocean Wind 1, a 1,100 megawatt project 15 miles off Atlantic City, NJ, now includes a fisheries monitoring plan developed in accordance with guidelines from the federal Office of Ocean Energy Management, according to a release. released Wednesday by wind developers. Ørsted.

The plan revolves around a suite of seven monitoring projects with Rutgers University, Delaware State University and Monmouth University. One will be a first-of-its-kind study of offshore wind in the United States, using environmental DNA from ocean sampling to monitor and assess local fish abundance and biodiversity in the Ocean Wind concession area. 1.

Research work began prior to construction and will continue at sea on local commercial fishing vessels for six years during Project construction and beyond.

“The research and data obtained will help establish a baseline for monitoring potential impacts associated with offshore wind development and operation,” according to the developers.

“Ørsted has funded similar research through an independent scientific contractor, Inspire the environment, to study the impacts of pre-construction, construction and operation on the fisheries resources of the first US offshore wind farm, Block Island Wind. The results of this trawl study were published in March 2022 and found no major negative impacts on marine life throughout the process.

Block Island’s five-turbine 30 MW pilot project began in 2016 and has become an attraction for recreational fishing, with black bass and other fish being drawn to the new underwater structure.

The scale and impact of Ocean Wind 1 on fishing is the subject of intense debate. Recent studies by Rutgers researchers found that planned wind turbine arrays could displace the mid-Atlantic clam industry enough to reduce its revenue by 15%. This loss could reach 25% for boats based in Atlantic City, a historic hub of the fleet, the researchers estimated.

Ørsted says the fisheries monitoring program will have broad benefits for offshore wind development in the United States.

“We are delighted to be conducting this environmental monitoring with such a highly skilled research team and their fishing industry partners,” said Gregory DeCelles, senior environmental and permitting specialist at Ørsted Offshore North America. “This important study will collect a wealth of valuable data on important commercial and recreational species and can serve as a model for conducting fisheries monitoring at offshore wind sites on a regional scale.”

Rutgers and Monmouth scientists chose the fisheries monitoring methodologies they considered most appropriate for the concession area. These will include trawls, baited remote-controlled underwater video cameras and chevron fish traps. Other technologies used will be autonomous underwater gliders, towed video cameras and mobile and passive acoustic telemetry.

A trawl survey is modeled on the Northeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (NEAMAP). Launched as a pilot program in 2006, NEAMAP was developed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to coordinate independent fisheries monitoring in the northeast, focusing on coastal waters that federal investigations and state did not always cover.

Years of NEAMAP sampling by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science on the Wanchese, North Carolina-based trawler Darana R has filled huge data gaps to help guide fisheries management. For monitoring Ocean Wind 1, the survey methodology will be combined with the use of environmental DNA – or eDNA – to assess the composition of fish species in the project area, from the location and construction works. from survey to operation and maintenance.

The use of eDNA technology allows scientists to track the presence of fish species that do not show up in sampling trawls, identifying distinctive genetic material that removes the slime layer on the fish. It is increasingly being used as an innovative and inexpensive way to monitor and assess fish abundance and diversity.

The Monmouth University team will manage eDNA work “to determine whether wind turbine and infrastructure development is impacting fish populations”, according to Ørsted. “This genetic material includes cells and bodily fluids that fish leave behind as they swim that can be collected, analyzed and matched against genetic barcodes from other fish to determine their species.”

Ocean Wind 1 will be the first offshore wind project to monitor potential fishing changes in a wind energy zone using eDNA.

“Sampling for eDNA is particularly good at detecting rare, endangered or otherwise hard-to-catch species in the waters,” said Jason Adolf, associate professor of marine science at Monmouth University and co- Project Manager.

“There is a degree of luck involved in trawling for fish, just like when you cast a line on your local lake,” Adolf said. “The genetic material in the water can tell you a lot about what you didn’t catch.”

The Monmouth team will sample the waters before, during and after construction for DNA released by marine life and compare the results with data collected by traditional trawls and fish-tagging methods.

The studies will take oceanographic data collected with gliders, shipboard observations and regional ocean observatories to integrate with sampling “to understand how the abundance and distribution of fish and invertebrate species may be influenced by seasonal ocean stratification in and around the Ocean Wind 1 location site,” according to Ørsted.

Ocean stratification – the seasonal layering of different underground temperature layers – and how wind turbine arrays may interact with them is another question for ocean scientists. The seasonal turnover of these layers is important for the survival of key commercially important species, including scallops and surf clams, and is a driver of primary production and nutrients for the ocean food web.

“The structure of this part of the ocean, the Mid-Atlantic Gulf Continental Shelf, is unique among ocean provinces because of its extreme seasonal temperature range and vertical stratification. As a result, migration and distribution are an important part of fish life cycles here, making it difficult to disentangle responses to the wind farm in particular,” said lead researcher Thomas Grothues, associate research professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick.

“It will be different from European offshore wind farms and even Block Island,” Grothues said. “But this study is ambitious and comprehensive enough to meet this challenge and should provide a wealth of data that would be difficult to obtain in any other type of project.”

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