This week, New Jersey’s first offshore wind project, Ocean Wind 1, announced a $13 million investment to implement fisheries monitoring surveys in collaboration with Rutgers University, Monmouth University and Delaware State University.
As part of an extensive Fisheries Monitoring Plan (FMP), the effort includes a suite of seven fisheries monitoring surveys, including a first-of-its-kind study for offshore wind.
The monitoring fieldwork, which was led by a team of research scientists, began prior to construction and will be carried out over a six-year period on local commercial fishing vessels through all phases of construction of the Ocean Wind 1 project.
The data obtained will help establish a baseline for monitoring potential impacts associated with the development and operations of offshore wind. A study of America’s first offshore wind farm, Block Island Wind, was published in March and found no major adverse impacts to marine life throughout the process.
“We are thrilled to conduct this environmental monitoring with such a highly qualified research team and their fishing industry partners,” said Gregory DeCelles, senior environment and permitting specialist, 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 accomplishing fisheries monitoring at offshore wind sites on a regional scale.”
Scientists at Rutgers and Monmouth identified and developed the field monitoring approaches that would be most appropriate for the lease area and will utilize a mix of traditional and innovative surveying methodologies, including trawls, baited underwater video cameras, chevron fish traps, gliders and towed video cameras, as well as mobile and passive acoustic telemetry.
“The structure of this part of the ocean, the Middle Atlantic Bight continental shelf, is unique among oceanic provinces due to the extreme seasonal temperature range and vertical layering,” said lead Principal Investigator Thomas Grothues, associate research professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences of Rutgers-New Brunswick’s School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “Migration and ranging are an important part of fish life cycles here as a result, and this makes it challenging to tease out responses to the wind farm specifically.”
Monmouth University scientists are leading eDNA work that involves extracting genetic materials from the ocean to determine whether the development of wind turbines and infrastructure has an impact on fish populations.
Ocean Wind 1 is the first offshore wind project to use eDNA to monitor for potential changes to fisheries in a wind-energy area. The Monmouth team will sample the waters before, during and after construction for DNA shed by marine life.
“Sampling for eDNA is especially effective for detecting uncommon, endangered or otherwise hard to catch species in the waters,” said Jason Adolf, Monmouth University endowed associate professor of marine sciences and project co-lead. “There’s a degree of luck involved in trawling for fish, just as when you cast a line at your local lake. The genetic materials in the water can tell you a lot about what you didn’t catch.”
“This study is ambitious and comprehensive enough to tackle this challenge and should yield a trove of data that would be hard to get through any other kind of project,” Grothues added.