April 9, 2019
New Initiative Launched to Help Protect New York’s Great Whales
News Source: Business Wire
Equinor Wind US, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) today launched a joint project to deploy two new near real-time acoustic buoys designed to expand the detection and monitoring of whale species found in the waters of New York Bight.
The buoys will provide near real-time monitoring of species such as the sei whale, fin whale, humpback whale, and the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale. The new devices will build on prior monitoring work in the New York Bight done by a previously deployed acoustic buoy funded by the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation and the Flora Family Foundation.
The buoys will help marine conservation scientists increase their understanding of whale species that spend time in and migrate through the waters off the coasts of New York and New Jersey. The data will also help inform ecologically sound decisions for potential development within Equinor’s offshore wind lease site.
The effort will also provide the general public with a fascinating window into the behaviors of acoustically sensitive marine mammals that live in the coastal areas. The near real-time data will be publicly available on a dedicated web page and eventually put on display in the New York Aquarium.
When deployed, the new acoustic buoys will increase detection rates of the North Atlantic right whale, one of the world’s most endangered whale species, in the New York Bight. This slow-moving, coastal animal is especially vulnerable to ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement, making information on their presence and migratory habitats crucial for effective conservation actions.
“The newly deployed acoustic buoys significantly increase our coverage off the coasts of New York and New Jersey to detect whale presence in near-real time. This information will help us answer questions about how these four whale species, including the North Atlantic right whale, are moving through and using our local waters,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Senior Scientist for the New York Aquarium and Director of WCS’s Ocean Giants Program. “Having these data readily available will help guide decision-making and best practices for offshore wind development and other human-use activities in the NY Bight.”
“We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the New York Aquarium and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, two of the leaders in the marine science community,” said Christer af Geijerstam, President, Equinor Wind US. “The offshore wind industry has a logical role to play as a partner to marine biologists and others interested in better understanding and preserving the health of our oceans. This project will also help make Equinor better stewards of this lease site by providing data that informs our operational decision-making well into the future.”
“Renewable energy is vital to the future of our society, and it’s important to see it move forward with minimal impact on the environment,” said Dr. Mark Baumgartner of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “Our monitoring work with WCS, coupled with state-of-the-art, WHOI-developed whale detection technology, will support these goals by providing Equinor, regulators, scientists and the public with long-term near real-time information on whale presence that can be used to responsibly manage wind development and other industrial activities."